Puppy love

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Top Dog Film Festival, coming to Abingdon this month, stars man’s best friend

Who doesn’t love a dog? Whether scruffy or pampered, they really are man’s best friend. So celebrate them in style this month!

Touring the UK for the first time, the Top Dog Film Festival features heart-warming stories of man’s best friend – via the big screen. Using stunning cinematography and heart-warming storytelling, the festival features tales from all around the world.

The collection of canine-inspired short films is touring the UK and comes to Abingdon’s Amey Theatre on Tuesday, 12th November. Tour director Neil Teasdale says: “Humans and dogs share a precious, heart-warming bond, and this new collection of films celebrates the canine companions that enrich our lives.

“Whether you’re a dog owner or just like dogs, these films are guaranteed to make you laugh, cry and fall in love with man’s best friend all over again.”
Highlights include the story of Arthur. A team competing in a gruelling adventure race in Ecuador unexpectedly had a surprise addition to their team.

The athletes encountered a then un-named stray dog, severely injured with a wound on its back – he joined them on their journey and found a home.

Another tale, The Dogist, features Elias Weiss Friedman, who lost his corporate job and took to the streets of New York with his camera and a squeaky tennis ball. Since then he has photographed 30,000 dogs all around the world, racking up 3.2 million followers on Instagram.

The event will also include a free prize giveaway, and a festive, dog-loving atmosphere is guaranteed!

🐕

For more information and tickets, visit

Beer-fuelled Bard

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Peter Anderson catches up with Stacey & Saul of Sh*tfaced Shakespeare which lands at Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre on Tuesday, 12th November

A smash-hit, internationally acclaimed, award-winning, multi sell-out fringe phenomenon comes to Swindon this month presenting Shakespeare in a way none of us remember it from our schooldays. We all know about pre-show drinks, but what if it is a random member of the cast who spends the four hours before a show having the pre-show drinks? Welcome to Sh*t-faced Shakespeare and their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With a gin in one hand, a cup of wine in the other and a flagon of ale in the other… What could possibly go wrong?

I catch up with Stacey & Saul from the group to find out this combination of beer and the Bard, came about. “We had one of those sessions where we all put our heads together and came up with ideas on how we can make the improv different. This was the suggestion that someone came up with. I don’t remember whether we said yes or no to it at the time, but it was a little while later that in a radio interview someone mentioned that this was something, we had thought of doing. From then on, we had to it, and it seems to have been well received as we are still filling theatres after some years.”

Is there a chance the plot could change? “Oh yes, when you are one of the sober cast you have to be ready for just about anything, from Juliet deciding she is not going to commit suicide to characters appearing in the wrong play which adds to the spice and fun – for both us and the audience especially. There are rules that we use in improvisation and these can usually keep the play flowing. The important thing is that we are providing something enjoyable for the audience, there is no question of deliberately making one of the cast look stupid.”

You are quite a close-knit group of actors to be able to do improv, especially with the additional jeopardy of alcohol, but if you could have a famous actor join you for a show, who would you love? “Now, there’s a thought! I think the one actress who always seems good fun in the things she does is Helena Bonham-Carter, I am sure she would be up for it and extremely good fun whether she was drunk or sober.”

The Evening Standard said of this show “There is no doubt this is a hoot to watch”. To get your chance to see what could be subtitled for one actor A Midsummer Morning’s Hangover the show is on Tuesday 12th November at the Wyvern Theatre

Want to go?

Get your tickets here

Sue Ryder Awards

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Nominate inspirational women for 2020 Sue Ryder Southern Women of Achievement Awards

Do you know a woman who deserves recognition for their achievements in the community, business, public service or sport?

If so nominate them for the Sue Ryder Southern Women of Achievement Awards – nominations open on Thursday, 7th November.

The charity for palliative, neurological and bereavement support is calling on people across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire to put forward the names of those who deserve to be celebrated.

The awards, which have been running since 2006, remain one of Sue Ryder’s biggest fundraisers of the year. They are a fantastic way to celebrate the incredible achievements of local women, while also reflecting on the amazing achievements of Lady Ryder – legendary philanthropist and the charity’s founder.

 

There are seven categories:

Community – sponsored by Invesco

Business – sponsored by Invesco

Sport – sponsored by Russell Partnership Collection

Innovation

Mentor/coach of the year

Public Service

Robyn Jones Courage Award – sponsored by CH&Co

 

Nominations will be open for a month, closing on 7th December. Successful nominees for each award category will then be contacted by a member of the Sue Ryder Fundraising team by 20th December.

Winners will be decided by a judging panel, including representatives from each sponsor, and announced at the Southern Women of Achievement awards ceremony on the 13th March 2020 at Phyllis Court in Henley. The awards will be accompanied by a black-tie drinks’ reception and three course dinner. Attendees on the night will also be treated to live musical entertainment, a raffle and silent auction.

Fern Hayes,  Head of Fundraising at Sue Ryder, said: “Celebrating the incredible achievements of so many amazing women across the region is a cause very close to our hearts and something we look forward to year on year. However, we need help to find our wonderful nominees.

“We were overwhelmed by support for the 2019 awards – especially from our brilliant volunteers and sponsors – and hope to drive just as much of a buzz around the 2020 event too.

“The awards are always such a fun and heart-warming event. We encourage everyone across the three counties of Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire to think about all the fantastic women they have in their networks and consider putting them forward for nomination. We want to make the 2020 awards our biggest and most successful yet.”

To make a nomination

Sir Ranulph Fiennes at Cranford House

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Junior pupils at a South Oxfordshire school have been exploring polar ice caps, arid deserts and yawning caves thanks to an exciting project focused on exploration and the environment.

And now they can look forward to sharing their hard work with none other than the world’s greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Cranford House, a small independent school in South Oxfordshire, has been running the inspiring project in parallel with several local primary schools whose Years 5 and 6 pupils will also be there on the day to meet the great man himself. As well as enjoying the chance to discuss their work on exploration and climate change with Sir Ranulph, they will also hear him speak of his experiences of life in some of the world’s most extreme places.

Among his many achievements, Sir Ranulph Fiennes successfully climbed Mount Everest, becoming the first person ever to have climbed Everest and crossed both polar ice-caps. He is also the only man alive to have travelled around the planet’s Circumpolar surface.

His latest challenge will see him attempting to become the first person to have crossed both polar ice caps and climbed the highest mountain on every continent. His expedition will raise funds for the Marie Curie charity and Cranford House is proud to be backing his expedition fundraising.

Cranford House’s pupils’ focus on exploration will culminate in a spectacular community event on the morning of Saturday 9th November with balloon rides, climbing walls, viking longships and desert dunes all on offer, and all free of charge.

The school has a history of attracting luminaries from the world of science and literature and Sir Ranulph joins the likes of recent visitors such as astronaut Helen Sharman OBE, and author Marcus Sedgwick in meeting and inspiring pupils.

Find out more

Downland Dance open day

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Have you or your little ones ever wanted to be a ballet dancer? Downland Dance are giving you the opportunity to try out a ballet class for FREE during their open day on Saturday, 2nd November.

During the half-term open day, prospective students are invited to attend a FREE ballet class at one of the studios in Abingdon or Didcot. Meet the teachers to learn more about the different classes offered, and ask any questions you may have. You can sign up for sessions for girls and boys aged 3 to 6 or for the Adult Beginners class (Didcot only).

The free open day classes for boys and girls aged 3-6 are at West Wing Studio, Coxeter House, Abingdon and Didcot Girls School, Manor Crescent from 9am to 9.45am. There is also an adult beginners class (ages 14 upwards) from 10am to 11am in Didcot.

Downland Dance was founded in 1977 and offers a range of ballet classes for children and adults and whether you want to take it for fun and exercise or with a view to taking Royal Academy of Dance ballet and character exams, it’s a great way to improve your body and mind.

Dance can have a positive lasting effect on your co-ordination, fitness and flexibility; enhance your energy levels, confidence and self-confidence; improve posture to help reduce aches and pains; build strength, stamina nad agility and increase general physical and mental wellness.

Open day places are limited so don’t delay, if you are interested go the website www.downland-dance.co.uk/open-days and complete the register form. If you have any questions email [email protected]

And if you miss out on this chance to dance, there is another open day planned for Saturday, 22nd February.

Half term at National Trust

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Autumn is the perfect time to get outside with the family and create unforgettable moments this October half-term. With all kinds of family-friendly events, woodland adventure days and spooktacular Halloween trails on offer, the kids won’t get bored at the many National Trust properties in the area.

Here are just a few ideas for you –

Basildon Park, near Reading, RG8 9NR  
01491 672382
Whether it’s brilliant autumn sunshine, or slightly damp autumn drizzle, there are plenty of opportunities for children to get out of the house this October half-term and enjoy Basildon Park. There’s the Wild Play Trail, open all year round, the half-term trail, and a natural play area for little ones. Come along and get stuck into a day out at Basildon Park from Saturday 26th October until Sunday 3rd November.
Half-term trail: Minibeasts 
Pick up a trail leaflet from visitor reception and search the parkland for creepy crawlies to win a prize. £2

The Vyne, near Basingstoke, RG24 9HL (just over the border in Hampshire) 
01256 883858
Young witches, ghosts and all manner of things can wander The Vyne’s gardens enjoying Halloween trails for all ages. Two mysterious trails will keep under 7s and over 8s entertained. Families can embark on their challenge by paying normal admission and £2 for each Halloween trail sheet at Visitor Reception from Saturday 26th October to Sunday 3rd November, 10am-5pm
Halloween spotter trail (up to age 7)
In the gardens, collect your £2 activity sheet from the Halloween tent and look out for 10 photos of animals mistakenly linked with witchcraft. Return your completed sheet to the tent for a chocolate prize. £2
Halloween rune trail (ages 8+)
On this mystical adventure through The Vyne’s gardens, decipher 16th-century runes to reveal a secret word. Collect your £2 activity sheet from the Halloween tent and look out for ten signs hidden around the gardens. Each sign will translate a symbol into a normal letter. Write each letter in the corresponding box on your activity sheet to work out the mystery word. At the end, return to the Halloween tent to collect your chocolate prize. £2

The Buscot and Coleshill Estates, near Faringdon, SN6 7PT 
01793 762209
As we head into Autumn, we’re making the most of the last summer sunshine and welcoming in the season of golden hues. With half-term fun at Badbury woods on our Autumn Scavenger hunt for children, flower arranging with pumpkins workshop and our November term of Coleshill Critters.
Autumn scavenger hunt at Badbury Woods
Monday 28th October – Friday 1st November, 11am-2pm
Become a nature detective and see what you can find in the woods. £3

Chastleton House and Gardens, near Moreton-in-Marsh, GL56 0SU 
01608 674981
Join the Halloween spooky ghosts and ghouls themed trail at Chastleton in the Cotswolds, abundant in local tales and legends of spooky happenings and ghoulish goings on. The house at Chastleton, however, is not known for its ghost stories and there are no tales of spooky sightings or strange feelings passed down from generation to generation.
But this Halloween half term, explore some of the local legends and stories from around the area in the ghosts, witches and ghouls trail running from Saturday 26th October to Sunday 3rd November, 1pm – 4pm. £2.50

Greys Court, near Henley, RG9 4PG
01491 628529
Whether it’s brilliant autumn sunshine, or slightly damp autumn drizzle, there are plenty of opportunities for children to get out of the house this October half-term and enjoy Greys Court. The half term trail will run from Saturday 26th October to Sunday 3rd November, where you can pick up a trail for £2 and find clues to win a prize.
October half-term: Loads of leaves 
Pick up a trail leaflet and wander the estate in search of clues celebrating the autumn colour. £2
Den-building 
Create a shelter for yourself this October half-term in the den-building area down near the play area. You’ll find plenty of sticks, logs and twigs to create your ideal hideout.

Find out more

For more details about these and other events at National Trust properties

Service & sacrifice

Round & About

Oxfordshire

In association with The Royal British Legion, we recognise the unseen service of the Armed Forces past and present.

I come from a military family,” explains poppy seller Chris Stephenson. Along with his wife, every autumn Chris, 73, who served in the Royal Air Force for nine years, spends eight hours a day, rain or shine, outside his local branch of Sainsbury’s in Witney, quietly raising awareness of Remembrance. And his motivation for doing this, as with many volunteers, is deeply personal.

“Eight members of my family fought in the First World War,” he says. “My grandfather and three of my great uncles died out there. My father was one of the last to get off Dunkirk beach. My wife’s father was also on the destroyer escort ships protecting the Atlantic convoys. I had the honour – on one of my trips to France and Belgium – to pay respects to my grandfather and great uncles and to meet a Canadian family and pay my respects to many Canadian soldiers. Most of the people I’ve mentioned have long departed this Earth, but wearing the poppy every year is my way of remembering and showing them gratitude. It’s the least I can do for the sacrifice they made.”

The Royal British Legion, which was born in 1921,  is the country’s largest Armed Forces charity, with 235,000 members, 110,000 volunteers and 2,500 local branches. The charity provides lifelong support to serving and ex-serving personnel and their families. Support starts after seven days of service and continues through life, long after service is over, from expert advice to recovery and rehabilitation to transitioning to civilian life.

The poppy is a symbol of Remembrance and hope for a positive future and peaceful world. In the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Fields which inspired the poppy’s use as a symbol of Remembrance.

“I think I was about four years old when my father pinned a poppy on my coat,” adds Chris. “So when I became a member of The Royal British Legion it was only right for me to raise money for the people who gave so much for their country. I will continue doing it until I’m no longer capable of doing so.”

The red poppy is worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces communities across the UK, Allied Forces and the Commonwealth and all parts of the poppy are recyclable. Only donations from the sale of RBL red poppies go directly to helping those in need. Last year the Poppy Appeal raised over £50 million for charity. “In my position as a Poppy Appeal organiser, I help hand out 240 boxes of poppies, 240 collecting tins to all the local shops, pubs, clubs, hotels and businesses,” explains Chris. “I’d say 99.9% of the people I meet in Witney and surrounding villages are absolutely fantastic. Most, if not all, thank us for what we are doing and ask if we will be back again next year. People actually come looking for us to put money into our tins. With the help of council staff, shopping precincts, and staff and Sainsbury’s customers, my wife and I collect for the whole fortnight of the Appeal.

“I’d like to say thank you to all the people in Witney who help us to raise such a wonderful amount of money each year for such a worthy cause.”

Rotary Watches is proud to continue its partnership with the Royal British Legion by launching a new limited-edition timepiece marking this year’s Remember Together campaign and 
its heritage as one of the official watch suppliers to the British Army during World War 
II. There are just 1,000 individually numbered models available. Visit www.rotarywatches.com

Tattoos have become central to Remembrance 
in the Forces community. Inked on to the skin, they commemorate friends who have served, illustrate sacrifices and mark the lasting bonds formed between men and women who live, train and fight together. Military tattoos are full of meaning and symbolism. Read the stories at www.britishlegion.org.uk and visit the live exhibition at the National Memorial Arboretum 
in Staffordshire before Sunday, 1st December.

Rememberance

Want to support our Armed Forces community? From a donation or a gift in memory of a loved one, to raffles lotteries and poppy products, there’s something for everyone. For marathons, abseils, dinners and concerts you can support

Waddesdon Halloween

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Photo: Adam Hollier, National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Make time this half-term to follow the ghosts of Waddesdon along terrifying trails, carve a pumpkin or sink your fangs into some ghoulish treats.

Throughout October half-term (Saturday, 26th October to Sunday, 3rd November) Waddesdon will host the living and the dead with a range of spooky activities and tasty treats daily from 10am to 3pm.
Join a terrifying trail if you are brave enough to complete The Dread Book. Let the trail tell you a tale of terror on Miss Alice’s Drive, perhaps you’ll spot a ghost or two – £3 per child.

Try your hand at the traditional Halloween craft of pumpkin carving from 26th October to 1st November. Perform a post-mortem on a pumpkin and take it home to light the way – £5 per pumpkin.

Tuck into a spooky afternoon tea during the week and indulge in some terrifying treats at the Manor Restaurant with a delicious spooky snake, ghost meringue and an eyeball cupcake. Adults £22.50, children £15.50 or add some sparkle to your tea for £27 adults.

When half term is out the way, Waddesdon steps into Christmas mode from Saturday, 16th November until Sunday, 5th January. Displays in the house this year explore the connection to the world of music with a festive twist, from carols to Christmas hits. The gardens will be illuminated with sparkling lights and colour.

For information

For information and to book for any of these events

Didcot Food Festival

Round & About

Oxfordshire

Enjoy great food & drink, fantastic cookery demos and magic at this year’s Didcot Food Festival on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October.

Didcot Food Festival, now in its fourth year, has proved so popular that this year the event will cover two days. Held in the Didcot Civic Hall, which offers indoor space for over 50 artisan traders, the Kid’s Kooking Zone, Chef’s Theatre and Vintage Tea Room.

The show opens at 10.30 am on the 26th by the time-travelling magical duo Morgan and West who will combine an act of magic and a love of food. Rhys Morgan says: “Our opening at this year’s Didcot Food Festival will be ‘bafflemint’ mixed with a hint of amazement and a generous dollop of laughter. We can’t give away too much; a good magic trick is like a good joke and ruined if you let the punchline out of the bag too early. So, to enjoy our opening act, you will just have to ensure you are part of the crowd and see what it is all about.”

Other Oxfordshire chefs lined up to amaze the audience with their culinary skills are old favourite Nick Bennett who reached the final of MasterChef The Professionals in 2015. Nick has a way of creating fine dining dishes look so simple, but we all know it takes a lot of technical skill to produce the type of food for which Nick is known for. Other chefs include Joe McCarthy from the award-winning Wychwood Inn at Shipton-under-Wychwood. Joe takes simple ingredients and turns them into memorable and very tasty dishes. John Van Nielerk from the newly opened Hilton Garden Inn in Abingdon which will be showcasing something fishy: the hotel’s restaurant has a Mediterranean influenced menu, but John also adds a hint of South African flavours to his food, drawing on dishes from his homeland. We will also gain an insight into some of the food produced by the chefs at The Circle Hospital in Reading.

For lovers of Thai food, Nawamin Pinpathomrat, the post-graduated research doctor who reached the final of the 2018 MasterChef will be cooking a splendid crab dish inspired by flavours from Thailand combined with Cornish crab.

Organiser of the Chef’s Kitchen, former Great British Bake Off quarter finalist Christine Wallace will give a fun demonstration with Howard Middleton who also appeared in Series 4 of GBBO. Together they will show off their baking skills adding a huge amount of laughter and amusement throughout the whole demonstration. Ali Imdad who was on the programme with Christine and Howard will also be showing how he is influenced by flavours from his travels and his culture.

Former That’s Life presenter and now BBC Radio Berkshire presenter Bill Buckley will show his love of cooking once more. Also new for this year will be two masterclasses on butchery skills and chocolate making. Radio presenter Al Ryan will be Master of Ceremonies.

Inspired?

Excited to get cooking? Check out our recipes and get in the foodie spirit

LoLo app

Round & About

Oxfordshire

How about being rewarded when you shop and eat? That’s the simple idea behind a new app – LoLo which has just launched in Reading.

The loyalty app encourages customers and businesses to be true to their high street and buy and eat at local retailers and restaurants.

And it couldn’t be simpler to use, all you need to do is download the app and you’ll get free access to £20 of ‘loyalty tokens’ to receive discounts at multiple participating businesses.

The mobile app has three functions: LoLo Local – for local high street retailers businesses, tradespeople and more all giving discounts by accepting local loyalty tokens; LoLo Eats – whether eating in or enjoying a takeaway at home there’s a discount to tuck into too; LoLo Mall – major retailers will offer exclusive discounts to members.

The app means shoppers enjoy discounts and businesses get to connect with customers to help them build creating vibrant communities.

LoLo co-founder and CEO, Ian Jones said: “The beauty of LoLo is the more local businesses and customers that join the free loyalty platform, the more they will all benefit.  Each time a customer makes a purchase with a local business using their loyalty tokens, they receive more tokens back that they can then spend again at the same business or redeem at another participating shop, mechanic, butcher or restaurant. LoLo is the gift that just keeps giving.

“Every time people spend money they are casting a vote on the future community they want. If we want vibrant local communities then we must support the local businesses who employ local people and pay local business taxes.

“When we spend money with international online giants we send the money away from our community and add to the local decline.

Supporting local businesses helps to keep the money circulating in our local community.”

You’re a winner and the business is a winner too – so what are you waiting for! 

Download the app