Hurray for May! What’s on this month
Regency sports clobber, wonderful watercress, a great big hot air balloon glow-up and more. Here's what on in Hampshire and Isle of Wight this May.
KIDS: Hidden Fairy Doors at Furzey Gardens, on now, Minstead, New Forest
New at the brilliant Furzey Gardens, and adding to the existing fairy trail hunt fun, kids can make like a fairy and run, step or leap theatrically through a giant door into the brilliant bamboo maze. Entry supports the organisation’s work with people with learning disabilities who help to maintain the gorgeous gardens here.
CINEMA: Downton Abbey: A New Era, on now at The Living Room Cinema, Liphook
At long last, carriages await for the feel-good Downton Abbey movie. Hampshire’s iconic Highclere Castle stars alongside local celeb Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham, who heads off to the South of France in search of the Dowager countess’ newly inherited villa. Muddy’s planning to watch it at the brand spanking new boutique Living Room Cinema, open now in Liphook.
EXHIBITION: A Costume of Sport, Chawton House, Thurs 28 April – Sun 4 Sept, Chawton
Brand new this month at Chawton House, this splendid new exhibition takes a look at ladies’ sporting dress – Regency-style. In an era of corsets and plentiful petticoats, the sartorial workarounds Jane Austen and her friends had activities like riding, cricket, sea-bathing and walking really are something to behold. The exhibition also explores some of the unexpected sports women of the time played and enjoyed here at the house.
EXHIBITION: Jane Austen Undressed, Jane Austens House, until Sun 2 Oct, Chawton
While you’re in Chawton, why not make it a Jane Austen double bill? The brilliant Jane Austen Undressed is on now until 2 October at Jane Austen’s House, featuring rare examples of Regency underwear alongside iconic pieces from TV and film adaptations – including that Mr. Darcy shirt. HRH the Duchess of Cornwall (above) was among the first to view it – and clearly enjoyed her visit!
KIDS: Southampton’s Platinum Jubilee Beacon Trail, Sat 30 April – Sun 12 June
Fancy a bit of free, interactive fun in Southampton? Combining a classic street hunt with interactive tech via your smartphone, this new trail uses QR codes/augmented reality to tell the story of St. Barnaby Beacon. (No clue? No, neither do we. Perhaps the kids can explain it). No prizes at the end except a sense of achievement, but you will collect digital stamps along the way and the kids can take selfies with the Jubilee-themed AR characters.
THEATRE: Gyles Brandreth: Break A Leg, Sun 8 May, New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth
Actor, author, ex-MP, One Show reporter, TV personality and proud novelty jumper-wearer, Gyles Brandreth, is on tour. His one-off show promises a trademark mix of wit, wisdom, high drama, low comedy and hilarious name-dropping. Clang! Fans’ll love it.
OUTDOORS: Walk the Wight, Sun 8 May, Isle of Wight
Boots at the ready! Challenge yourself to trek around the beautiful Island, raising money for charity or for a donation to the Isle of Wight’s Mountbatten charity. Pick from five walks and distances (starting at a manageable four miles up to a, err, challenging 26.5 miles).
THEATRE: The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Sat 14 – Sun 15 May, New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth
Direct from the West End, the Olivier Award-nominated The Tiger Who Came to Tea is coming to Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal. Expect magic, sing-a-long songs and a tea-and-sandwiches guzzling tiger (sounds a bit like an afternoon at Muddy’s house!). Suitable for children aged 3+.
MUSIC: Welsh National Opera’s Play Opera LIVE, Sat 14 May, MAST Studios Southampton
Got a budding Katherine Jenkins in the family – or just fancy a bit of family fun? The Welsh National Opera’s brilliant Play Opera Live family concert is on at the MAST Studios Southampton this May. The friendly performers will reveal fun facts, get everyone involved with singalong songs, and there’s a chance to meet WNO singers and members of the WNO Orchestra. Then sit back and listen to music from film, television and the stage like West Side Story, The Wizard of Oz, Star Trek, The Avengers, Rossini’s William Tell and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
OUTDOORS: Hinton Ampner’s Celebration of Roses, Sat 14 May – Sun 10 July, Hinton Ampner, near Arlesford
It’s all coming up roses at the National Trust’s Hinton Ampner this May. For a £1 donation, grab a leaflet and rose trail and learn about the different varieties of the beautiful blooms planted by former owner Ralph Dutton and the Hinton Ampner team on a pleasant stroll around the gorgeous gardens.
FOOD: Alresford Watercress Festival, Sun 15 May, Alresford
It’s BACK! The all-out quirky celebration of the glorious, locally-grown super-green crop. Get here using the ultimate fun park and ride on The Watercress Line heritage trains. Arrive early to watch the Watercress King and Queen distribute the first of the season’s watercress harvest to festival-goers. Swing along to jazz on the main stage, marvel (or gag) at the watercress eating competitions, check out top local chefs in action and keep the kids entertained with nostalgic Punch and Judy shows. Brilliant.
KIDS: Nature Day at Gilbert White’s House & Gardens, Sun 15 May, Selboure
Young eco-warriors and naturalists should hotfoot it to Gilbert White’s House this May. On this special Nature Day celebration, get to know local organisations helping to conserve nature and take part in nature-based activities, wildflower and butterfly walks. There’s also an interactive, theatre treasure hunt trail through the house and gardens featuring six iconic Beatrix Potter characters – including Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle. Sweet!
MUSIC: The Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra, Sun 15 May, Medina Theatre, Newport
Culture fix? This month, the ‘genre-bending’ Dutch violinist and composer Tim Kliphuis is back to the Isle of Wight performing with his signature gypsy, jazz, folk and classical violin sounds. Soloist Tim and other top-class musicians from The Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra will perform his own Violin Concerto ‘Ulysses’ alongside Brahms’ First Symphony and Massenet’s Scènes Pittoresques.
THEATRE: Vixen, Sat 21 May, The Spring, Havant
A theatrical exploration of the challenges of growing-up from the award-winning Travelling Light company, Vixen tells the story of a young girl becoming a fox – and uses the original story to delve engagingly into perplexing topics like identity, friendships and family. Suitable for children aged 7+.
COMEDY: Patrick Kielty: Borderline, Wed 25 May, The Theatre Royal, Winchester
Need a laugh? Catch Northern Irish comedian Patrick Kielty at The Theatre Royal Winchester this May. Returning to his satirical roots, he’ll offer a personal take on borders, national identity and the future of the Union in a post Brexit landscape as he attempts to make sense of it all. Good luck with that, Patrick.
EXHIBITION: Out of the Blue at The Arc, Fri 27 May – Mon 29 Aug, Winchester
Beautiful botanicals, fabulous florals and geometric prints in a riot of colours, interiors fans won’t want to miss this touring exhibition from The Fashion and Textile Museum. Celebrating the work of influential design company, The Designers Guild, it’s on at The Arc, Winchester.
VISIT: Highclere Show, Highclere Castle, Sat 28 – Sun 29 May, Highclere, Newbury
Watch falconry displays, try your hand at shooting and get stuck in with other country pursuits at The Highclere Show at the gorgeous Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey). Expect family entertainment and live music from folk, jazz and blues performers. There’ll also be plenty of foodie highlights too, from street food to local produce – including Highclere’s very own gin!
OUTDOORS Isle of Wight Balloon Festival, Robin Hill Country Park, Sat 28 – Mon 30 May
The unmissable hot air balloon extravaganza is back at Robin Hill Country Park. And this year, it’s even bigger! Learn more about the fun sport from the enthusiastic pilots, listen to live music, get entertained by street performers and tuck into tasty street food. Then it’s over to the stars of the show, the special-shaped hot air balloons, which will light up the evening sky with bursts of colour and epic soundscapes in the event’s spectacular Night Glow finale. Wowsers.
KIDS: Victoria’s Family Day Out, Tues 31 May, Osbourne House, East Cowes
Kick off your Jubilee Week celebrations regally at Queen Victoria’s palatial seaside home. Victoria and her beloved Albert will be strolling around Osbourne House and joining in the fun, watching splendid sideshows like Punch and Judy. Especially for the day, there’ll be traditional fairground rides like swing boats and a helter-skelter to enjoy, too. One is amused!