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MY FAVOURITE PLACES: Rachel Bavidge, actress

11 Oct

Rachel Bavidge’s acting career began at Oxford’s Pegasus Theatre when she joined Oxford Youth Theatre in the Nineties. Now a successful actress, she has most recently appeared in ‘Eastenders’, ‘The Shadow Line’ and ‘Law & Order’.  This Saturday evening (13 Oct 2012) Rachel will be joining Radiohead’s Philip Selway and Eastenders director Steve Finn for a reading of Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives’ at Pegasus.

The Ashmolean Museum

The Alfred jewel

I’ve always loved this place and got my first real job after college working here in the coin department.  My favourite object is ‘The Alfred Jewel’ which is a beautiful piece of Anglo-Saxon art.  No-one is certain what it’s for, but it’s inscribed with ‘Alfred ordered me to be made’ and was probably made on the orders of King Alfred the Great.
The Jericho Tavern, Jericho, central Oxford

I spent most of the Nineties hanging round here watching bands play, including my then boyfriend, a bass player in ‘The Bigger The God’ who played lots of gigs round Oxford. The bands around were ones like Ride, Supergrass, The Candyskins and Radiohead (On a Friday) and it was an amazing time for live music.
Oxford Playhouse , Beaumont St, central Oxford

I was a member of the Youth Theatre here and defected from the Ashmolean across the road to get a job as the Community Education worker.  It was always insanely busy but I loved going out and meeting new people and giving those who wouldn’t normally go to the theatre a taste of it.

Cowley Road
, Oxford

I spent many happy hours getting drunk in pubs along this road and having late night takeaways after dancing at the Zodiac, which is now The O2. The area has changed over the years but not too much, and it’s still a great place to hangout. Aziz Restaurant was a favourite and I think I was one of the few people to eat one of their meals on stage at Pegasus.  In the play I was in, called Steaming, the characters eat a hot curry, and the restaurant delivered this to us every night!  Cafe Coco and Uhuru Whole Foods were also big favourites.

Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry

I used to live around the corner from this church where CS Lewis is buried, and when I was having a bad time with life (as all teenagers do) I used to come and sit by his grave for some time out.  I used to love the Narnia books as a child, but also I was brought up in a big catholic family where faith and the struggle with it, was central to our home life. CS Lewis’s own story had certain resonances that made me feel a connection.


Your social life sorted: The Muddy Guide 15 – 21 September

15 Sep

Sorrryyyyyy this is late. Having a crazy old time of things, what with the new Muddy Stilettos blogazine launching in two weeks (*squeak!*), trying to find time to talk to advertisers, chucking three kids in and out of school and trying to keep my alcohol consumption within moral limits.

Anyhow, here it is, in all its glory. Your social life sorted for the week. Have fun and please, if you do any of the things on this list, write and tell us about them in the box below this post. Mi comment boxa e su comment boxa and all that.

Edward Lear exhibition, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2o Sept 2012 – 6 Jan 2013

I confess that I didn’t know much about Edward Lear until a press release to this exhibition plopped into my in-box, but the Ashmolean’s brand new Exhibition Happy Birthday Edward Lear: 200 Years of Nature and Nonsense sounds captivating.

Lear is one of the most notable artists and popular writers of the Victorian period (I know, who knew?!), best known for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose, though he saw himself primarily as an artist.  I’ll be taking a sneaky pre-peek on the 19th so I’ll report back then but I’ve never had a less than interesting experience in the Ashmolean so I’m expecting great things. Frankly for £4 (and free for kids) you can afford to take a punt on it.

£4/£3 concessions | Free to under-18s/

Julius Caesar, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, 19-22 September

The RSC’s acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar comes to Aylesbury straight from the West End, starring a whole load of buff men wearing not very much. See you in the stalls! Tickets £10-30

London Design Festival, until 23 September

Milk Concept Boutique’s exhibition Be Seated

Are you a doer-upper, Grand Designs voyeur or hardened interiors pro? There’s something for everyone at the London Design Festival, now in its tenth year. Furniture, lighting, ceramics, architecture, fashion, interiors, graphic design and crafts are all lovingly covered in over 300 events.  The organisers recommend planning your visit carefully before you go – great advice because the range of this festival is truly gobsmacking. It’s not easy though. I’ve just spent half an hour trying to choose one brilliant event over another and have basically decided to sleep in the Truman Brewery for the next week.

Keeping it Local, Oxford’s Castle Quarter, 15-16 September

Muddy Stilettos gets all warm and toasty about community spirit, and Keeping It Local has it in spades. Over 100 exhibitors, from makers and bakers, gardeners to performers, will come together in Oxford’s Castle Quarter to showcase the best Oxfordshire and adjoining counties haveo offer. As you’d expect, there’s plenty for kids to do from pony rides, story telling, animal petting and face-painting while you concentrate on the important stuff like heckling the Morris Dancers.

10am-5pm both days. 1p entrance fee per person.

Jazz at St Giles,  St Giles Church, fortnightly from Saturday 22 September

I’m loving the idea of these new fortnightly Autumnal jazz concerts held at the 12th century St Giles church in central Oxford on Saturday nights. Featuring top class jazz musicians performing two sets with a 20 minute interval (yes, refreshments are available, you old lushes) the concerts will raise funds for the church, proving the famous adage that ‘jazzliness is next to Godliness’.

Tickets are available on the door, or book online at .  Tickets £10/concessions £8. Doors open: 7.00pm
Performance: 7.30pm

Luminaries at LASSCO, Milton Common, Thursday 20 September

I love LASSCO Three Pigeons, the architectural salvage experts nestled on the edge of Milton Common, with their quirky treasure trove of Grecian pillars, stuffed animals, Victorian door knobs and glorious chandeliers.

In line with its classy but slightly out-there aesthetic, the company has introduced a’Luminaries’ series of evening talks, the first of which was about the Antarctic explorer Frank Wild (!), but the second of which, container gardening, has infinitely broader in its appeal. Paul Williams, former Head Gardener at Bourton House and now consultant, broadcaster and author, is dropping by on 20 September to spill his trade secrets. Apparently there’ll be practical demos with pots, plants, compost and ‘quite a bit of mess’ according to LASSCO’s gleeful owner Anthony. Bring your own trowel for acccurate mud-flicking.

£10, including a glass of wine. 6.30pm for a 7pm start. LASSCO Three Pigeons, London Road, Milton Common, Oxfordshire OX9 2JN United Kingdom Tel: 01844 277188.

Chilterns Countryside and Food Festival, Ashridge Estate, Berkhamsted, Sunday 16 September

Can you stomach another festival? This one has all the usual attributes of kids crafts, ferret racing and local produce stalls, but plays its trump card in its location – the Ashridge Estate, which is stunning even by Chilterns standards. When all the bushcraft, sheep shearing and traditional beardy weardy woodcarving gets too much for you, take a deep breath, step into 6 miles of glorious forest and remember what you’re really celebrating.

10-4pm, £3 adults, children free. Ashridge Visitor Centre, tel: 01442 851 227

YOUR SOCIAL WEEK SORTED: The Muddy Guide 7 – 13 September

7 Sep

Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, until Sunday 9 September

Before the Olympics I couldn’t imagine myself including this on the top things to do for the week, but come on – it’s your chance to see a whole load of Olympians in action! It’s all very posh of course, with a shopping area that includes picnics, a tailor (yes really), garden furniture and fashion. No MacDonald’s here, my dear, I can assure you, but Blenheim is gorgeous, the buzz will be incredible and it’s going to be a sunny weekend. QED no?

Berkofest, Berkhamsted Sports Club, Herts

Musical comedian Mitch Benn

Berkhamsted punches above its weight with theatre, festivals and independent loveliness. Flirtatiously nudging south Bucks, the town is offering a new music and comedy festival this week, Berkofest, set in the 8-acre Berkhamsted Sports Club. It’s a real mixed bag and you’ll have to scroll through to find your pleasures. Comedians Mitch Benn and Mary Rourke have great stand-up credentials and there are plenty of bands booked, though  I’m not sure Showaddywaddy counts as musical entertainment (I did fancy the lead singer when I was little, mind). My feeling is that Berkofest is one of those events that could brillant or bloody awful. Sometimes it’s fun just to take the chance.

The Ultimate Picture Palace relaunches, Cowley Road, Oxford. From tonight (Friday 7 Sept)

I’ve been to the UPP a few times and always rather enjoyed its mosh-pitty, studenty feel, perhaps out of nostalgia for my own student days up the Cowley Road. But I can’t say I regret too deeply that the new owner has just given the oldest cinema in Oxford a facelift. From today (7 Sept), there’s a new sound system, lighting and comfy chairs no less along with a natty exterior revamp too. Box office biggies Shadow Dancer, Oscar-winning documentary Undefeated and Keira Knightley’s new bodice-ripping costume drama Anna Karenina (on general release tomorrow) are all screening this month.

The Ultimate Picture Palace, Jeune Street, Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1B.

Blenheim Palace Literary Festival at Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Weds 12 – Sunday 16 September

Blenheim Palace is back for the second time in the Muddy Guide this week, with this well regarded, intimate literary festival. Authors as diverse as Deborah Harkness, Roger McGough, Frederick Forsyth, beauty guru Liz Earle and chef Ken Hom are on hand for talks, literary dinners or interview evenings, all in the beautiful surroundings of the palace and Woodstock itself. Ask Forsyth his views on Fifty Shades of Grey and watch the feathers fly!

Roald Dahl Day at Gipsy House Garden, Sunday 9 September

A fantastic opportunity to enjoy Roald Dahl’s beautiful garden with your kids as part of the celebrations for Roald Dahl day. The quirky pleasures include the old painted caravan which Dahl bought as a giant toy for his children (and wrote about in Danny, Champion of the World). In the back garden there’s a bird house, once a coop for his homing budgies, but now filled with giant green bottles, like those that held dreams in The BFG. It’s impossible, too, to miss the maze, its entrances marked by stones inscribed with lines from his children’s books. 

Free entry, but donations to Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity welcome. Tea and cakes available. 11am-5pm, Whitefield Lane, Great Missenden, HP16 0BP

The Muddy Guide to Going Out: 26 July – 1 Aug

26 Jul

Eden Food Fair, Eden Centre, High Wycombe, Sat 28 July

Loved the Big British Bake Off? Then head down to the the fourth Eden Food Fair and watch cake queen Mary Berry judging the first ever  ‘Great Big Bucks Bake Off’ (See what they did there? Clever.). The Eden Centre is promising a real festival feel to this, their 4th food festival, including ‘live cookery theatre’ (otherwise known as demonstrations), sushi-making workshops for kids, a petting farm, a folk band and a local-produce farmers market. Plus with Zara, H&M, and Whistles (in House of Fraser) on hand, I think it’s safe to say you’ll find something worthwhile to do in the area…
11am-5pm, Eden Centre, High Wycombe. Mary Berry will be available to sign copies of her latest book.

Riverside Music Festival, Charlbury, Sat 8-Sun 29 July

If the weather holds, this music festival in the pretty North Oxfordshire village of Charlbury could be a goer. Don’t be confused by the June date in the poster – the original event was cancelled due to bad weather and has been rescheduled for this weekend. Unusually for a festival these days, it’s free. Whoopee!  This should probably manage your expectations for the bands playing, Ed Sheeran, Elbow and Jessie J unfortunately not available, but these local festivals have a charm of their own. Charlbury is happily situated on the edge of the Cotswolds, with Woodstock, Chipping Norton and Burford as near neighbours, so it’s easy to dip into the festival for a few hours and potter around this beautiful part of the county for the rest of the day.

Bounce on Stonehenge, various locations, London, until 12 Aug

Want to commit ‘Sacrilege’? You’ve no doubt seen this brilliantly bonkers work by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Diller in the press, but now the lifesize inflatable replica of Stonehenge is touring the UK. What better way to introduce your kids to a spot of Neolithic history? Sacrilege has popping up around London over the next two weeks, and you can experience it in Paddington Recreation Ground, Westminster (Jul 28); Cheam Park, Sutton (Jul 29); Ravenscourt Park (Jul 31); Hampstead Heath (Aug 1); Clapham Common (Aug 2); Burgess Park (Aug 4); Barra Hall Park, Hillingdon (Aug 5); East Ham Central Park (Aug 7); Crystal Palace (Aug 9); Alexandra Palace (Aug 10); Christchurch Green, Redbridge (Aug 11) and The Waterworks Nature Reserve at Lee Valley Park, Enfield (Aug 12). Hampstead Heath will be a particularly lovely venue – head up to Kenwood to the cafe for lunch or afternoon tea after your kids are all bounced out, or walk into Hampstead itself if you’re not too sweaty and uncouth for NW3.
42nd St Summer Workshops, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre


Your child will be able to do the splits this after three days. Amazing!

This workshop isn’t happening until 2-9 August, but you’ll want some time to organise yourself and your kids if it appeals. Whether your children are stars (or is that brats?!) in the making or have no experience of theatre at all, this is a brilliant opportunity to get involved in a musical theatre project based on 42nd Street, which comes to the Aylesbury Waterside in Novemeber. A professional choreographer and vocal coach will be going out and about in the local community – in Wendover on 2-3 August for ages 12-16; Buckingham on 6-7 Aug for ages 8-11 and Haddenham on 8-9 August, again for 8-11 year olds. Then all groups will come together at the Waterside on 10 August to share thier work. Sounds fantastic, and the three day project only costs £50 – hell, that’s cheaper than a childminder!
10am-4pm each day. Places must be pre-booked, and can be booked on 0844 871 7607 or the box office in person.

John Lill piano recital, Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford, Sun 29 July

One of the most brilliant and respected pianists in the world, John Lill opens the 2012 Piano Festival in Oxford with the last of  Haydn’s piano sonatas along with three key, accessible piano works from the 19th century greats – Brahms, Schumann and Liszt. I saw Lill play when I was a teenager and still remember it vividly – he’s just amazing. The stunning setting of Christchurch Cathedral is the icing on the cake. If you or yours play the piano, Lill is also performing a masterclass on Monday 9.30a.m-12.45pm, with observer tickets £9 available from the Oxford Playhouse, or the Oxford Philomusica on 01865 980980.
John Lill piano recital, from 8pm. Tickets £20 or £10 (unsighted).


Time to revisit this 90s video classic – you’ve gotta give for what you taaaaaakkke!

14 Jul

So, Ms Kate Moss has signed on the dotted line to star in George Michael’s latest music video, having missed the cut for the Freedom vid back in 1994. And John Pearson, the only male model from the vid, has just been back on the catwalk for Prada 20 years after retirement.

Guess it’s time to revisit the video then! Which supermodel is the most beautiful? Answers on a postcard. Or failing that, in the comment section (BTW, my money’s on Christy).

Here you go. Enjoy, and make sure you look out for the hilariously lo-fi tape deck. Those were the days.

Festivals and Children – how to survive both!

1 Jul

Just back from Cornbury Festival, exhausted but pretty happy with my lot. This was the first festival I’ve taken my kids to, and it was a good ‘beginner’ festival – local, well-behaved, not too busy and hilariously middle class – Byron burgers, Hummingbird bakery, Pizza Express, plus a Joules store onsite (the PR didn’t call it ‘Poshstock’ for nothing.)

If you’re relaxed festival goers and your children are already seasoned pros, able to unicycle, spin plates and improvise fairy tales whilst cheerfully heckling Mr Tumble, just ignore the rest of this post. Otherwise, here are my top tips for successful festival-going with kids:

1. Like a highly trained SAS operative, plan your escape route. We wandered towards the exit at 4ish, only to be told there were no buses to the station until 6.30. That was a draagggggg. Cue a trudge back to the festival and another £20 gone on emergency cheer-up measures (beer and candy floss).

2. Don’t trust the weathermen. It was supposed to be fine today so I put C and I in sandals. Two hours later, their quivering tootsies frostbitten and muddy, I had to make an emergency stop at – where else? – Joules, and spent £50 on wellies. Yes, 50 bloody quid!!! They are nice wellies, mind.

3. Don’t let your son go for a sleepover the night before you attend a festival. F had looked me in the eye, solemnly promised to go to bed at normal time and be on form for today. He fell asleep on the train to Banbury on the way to Cornbury. Go figure.

4. When the festival organisers claim there’s a shuttle bus to take you from station to venue, do not assume it’s free. Our charming transport shuttled £20 out of our pockets each way.

5. Find out who is playing when and where before you get to the venue. We wandered around happily enough, coming across various acts, but it would have been so much better with a bit of planning. My kids were half way through a mammoth slide session when I heard a band I really wanted to listen to and I couldn’t get there in time to see them. Grrrrrr.

6. Take chairs. The upside of having a dry bum outweighs the downside of carrying them with you all day. If you find a spot you like, JUST DON’T MOVE.

7. If you have a toddler, insist they try Zorbing. The funniest five minutes of my day!

Festival alert – it’s not too late to book the best!

15 Jun

If, like me, you are a serial ditherer and are yet to turn your vague thoughts about festival-going into a reality, this post is for you. There are kazillions of festivals these days and my list is by no means prescriptive, but this is my pick of the bunch, locally and nationally. Book now or regret your indecision for another year!

Cornbury Festival, The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, 29 June – 1 July
Cornbury is the self-proclaimed ‘Poshstock’ of music festivals (if that means it doesn’t rain, I like it already), with the likes of Elvis Costello, James Morrison, Hugh Laurie, Pixie Lott and Will Young headlining. Cornbury tries to create the spirit of a village carnival on a bigger scale, hence there are roaming performers, farmer’s markets, fairground, and a dedicated childrens zone with  circus tent, dance classes, ventriloquist shows, clay making, willow sculpture, magic shows, all in a beautiful Oxfordshire setting. We likey.
£150-175 adults w/e; £75-100 13-16 year olds; £65 adult day, £30 13-16 year old day.

Latitude, Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk, 12-15 July

It’s boutique-fest all the way at Latitude with luxury camping, Wi-fi, cool cafes and some of the biggest names in showbiz at this giant of a festival. Paul Weller, Elbow, Lana Del Rey headline, while Jack Dee, Al Murray, Tim Minchin and colleagues take over the comedy arena. There’s film, cabaret, a literary salon, luvviedom courtesy of the National Theatre, plus a turn by superstar pianist Lang Lang who, frankly, is worth the price of the ticket alone.
From £75 for an adult day ticket.

Southbank Centre Festival of the World, until 30 September
This Festival, in celebration of this special summer of national events, is just brilliant, and you can dip in and out as you wish. The E4 Udderbelly Festival is already underway (until 8 July), with theatre, comedy and family shows, while the Meltdown Music Festival (1-12 August) curated by Mercury Prize-winning musician and visual artist Anthony is one of hot hottest tickets in town.

Wilderness, Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, 10-12 August

Think long table banquets, hot tubs, masked balls, live music, yoga, talks, family stuff, pioneering arts and you’ve got the superfunky festival from the clever chaps behind the brilliant Secret Garden. Wilco, Spiritualised and a whole heap of other cool cats provide the music, The Idler Academy and Granta provide the thinking, there are more food experts than you can shake a stick at, Barefoot Books, Jaffe & Neals cafe and bookshop (both previous Muddy recommendations, written here) are here too, plus theatre for kids and… I’m sorry, I can’t go on, I’m hyperventiliating.
£129-139 for adult weekend ticket. Family tickets (2 Adults + 2 Young Persons): £260.

Camp Bestival, Lulworth Castle, Dorset, 26-29 July
Oooh, this is going to be awesome. Exclusive bookings this year include Opera Holland Park’s staging of Fantastic Mr Fox with live orchestra, a performance by Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey from the West End musical, Mr Tumble (Mr Tumm-ble!) to entertain the kids, plus Adam Ant (hurray), Happy Mondays (double hurray) and Kool and the Gang – fresh (they’re so fresh!).
Tickets £175-185. Camping from Friday.

Supernormal, Braziers Park, Oxford, August 10-12
This not-for-profit music and arts festival has a capacity for just 500 and is all about intimacy – blurring the gap between performer and audience. That sounds a bit pervy but I think it just means that you don’t have to watch the stage from 500 metres away like you do at the bigger festivals. There are workshops, a disco tent, cinema and of course live music. Hey, it sounds fun, let’s cuddle up!
Tickets £65.

Vintage, Boughton House, Northamptonshire, July 13-15
I reckon this will be brililiant. Wayne Hemingway’s Vintage Festival celebrates seven decades of British culture from the 20s to the 80s with music, art, fashion, film, design and dance, all set in the glorious grounds of Broughton House in Northamptonshire. There are vintage makeovers, dance classes, fashion and upcycling workships, roller disco (can you imagine the carnage?) classic cars/campers and a whole lot of glamping. Just make sure you remember to pack your lippy and hairnets.
Tickets From £57.50 for adult day pass. Under 11s go free. 

Henley Festival, 4-8 July
A genteel, well-heeled feel to this festival, with Sting, Olly Murs and Katherine Jenkins headlining and an awful lot of black tie on the promotional website. Some of the tickets have sold out but there’s availability on the lawns and poor old Olly Murs is yet to sell out a single night… The riverside setting will be gorgeous of course and there’s plenty of excellent catering to be had.
Tickets £35-£150

 Towersey Festival, Towersey, Oxfordshire, 24-27 August
This is the festival most local to me, and it has a good reputation. Maybe this is the year I’ll make it! Aside from the music, the emphasis is on art and sculpture, theatre, workshops, poetry and family, with plenty for kids to do. For ticket prices call 023 8071 1818 (there are loads of options!). 

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