Things to do: Picasso, putting on The Ritz and where to see snowdrops

Country Life rounds up the best things to see, do and book over the next few weeks.

Fairs and festivals   – Gardens and nature –  Food and drink  
Family fun – Architecture
Arts and CraftsCinema, Music, Theatre and DanceArt and exhibitions

Fairs, festivals and walks

February 15–March 3 – Dark Skies Festival, various locations

The Northumberland, North York Moors, South Downs and Yorkshire Dales National Parks come together once again to offer a host of events celebrating clear night skies and the stars you can see. Programme available online.

April 26–28 – The King’s Lynn Shakespeare Festival, St George’s Guildhall, King’s Lynn, Norfolk

The inaugural festival will celebrate the Bard in workshops, performances and discussions, hosted by actor Andrew Jarvis with two guest appearances by Sir Ian McKellen. Tickets from £8.50.

March 24 – Walk with a Fork, Walsingham Abbey, Norfolk

An eight-mile walk through the splendid  grounds of Walsingham Abbey and alongside its river whilst sampling some of the finest food and drink Norfolk has to offer. £25 per adult and children under five go for free.


Throughout February – NGS Snowdrop Festival, various locations

This is one of the most magical months in our gardens because it’s the time for snowdrops. More than 90 gardens – including one of the best displays in the country at Welford Park, Berkshire – will open to visitors, many of them for the only time this year, showcasing great naturalised drifts and single exquisite rarities.

February 16-18 – NGS opening of Knowle Hill Farm, Ulcombe, Kent

Discover a mouthwatering collection of snowdrops built up by Elizabeth and Andrew Cairns over 30 years, skilfully integrated into their two-acre garden, with its spectacular views over the North Downs. 11am–3pm. Admission £5, children free, and if you go on Sunday Feb 17, Copton Ash and Mere House are both open nearby as well.

February 9–March 10 – Orchids Festival, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey

Colombia, the home of more orchid species than anywhere else in the world, is the theme of this year’s festival, which will evoke the country’s sights, smells and sounds. More than 5,700 orchids on display will include the Flor de Mayo (Cattleya trianae), Colombia’s national flower. Entry included with standard admission.

January 12–March 21 – International Garden Photographer of the Year, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

The best amateur and professional garden and landscape photography will be on show with complementary dried-flower arrangements in the oast house. 11am–4pm, normal admission applies.

Marianne Marjerus' 'Borrowed Landscape' features in the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition

Marianne Marjerus’ ‘Borrowed Landscape’ features in the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition

Until March 24 – Winter Walks at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

Enjoy the new walks around the estate, taking in snowdrops, aconites, winter shrubs and the different views afforded by the leafless trees. Dogs are welcome and you can now get digital maps on your smartphone to navigate. Saturdays and Sundays, 10am–4pm. Adults £12, children £6.

Arts and crafts

March 9 – Making is Good For You: The Heritage Crafts Association Conference 2019, Cecil Sharp House, Regent’s Park Road, London

Arts and crafts calm and focus the mind – speakers explain their craft and how it keeps them sane. £25 for HCA members, £30 for non-members.

March 16 – Lampshade Making Workshop, Helen Round Shop & Studio, The Barrow Centre, Cremyll, Cornwall

Join the designer, textile and homeware maker and learn how to create a drum lampshade in two different sizes. Bring your own fabric or buy ready-cut, handprinted linen panels from Helen. 9.30am–12.30pm, £55pp including refreshments.

Food and drink

February 27 – Oxford College Portfolio Wine Tasting, Christ Church College, Oxford

Try new and mature German wines. 12pm–2pm, £15pp or free to trade.

February 16 – Mary Poppins Returns Inspired Afternoon Tea aboard the Belmond British Pullman

Enjoy sandwiches, tartlets and a ‘Practically Perfect’ selection of cakes and pastries on board the classic train, plus activity packs, balloon artists, face painting and magicians. The round trip departs from London Victoria and takes in the wonderful Weald of Kent. 12.45pm–4pm, children under 12 £142.50, adults £285.

March 4 – Who’s Cooking Dinner? in aid of Leukemia research at The Dorchester, London

Alain Ducasse, Clare Smyth, Mark Hix, Skye Gyngell, Tom Kerridge, Angela Hartnett and Claude Bosi are among the 25 chefs crowding into the kitchen at The Dorchester to mark the 20th anniversary of this annual event in aid of leukaemia research charity Leuka. Guests will only find out who is cooking their dinner on the night, revealed by a random draw. £7,500 for a table of 10.

Cinema, Theatre, Music and Dance

Until February 27 – Young Picasso, nationwide

This documentary charting the artist’s formative years has been created in collaboration with the five major Picasso museums.

Throughout 2019 – Live at The Ritz, Piccadilly, London

Every Friday and Saturday evening, guests can enjoy Michelin-starred dining accompanied by live music and dancing. Each Friday, renowned swing-dance band the London Dance Orchestra will be in residency. Four-course dinner menu from £110pp.

March 10 – Bolshoi Ballet in Cinemas: Sleeping Beauty, various venues nationwide

The fairytale ballet set to Tchaikovsky’s score and starring fairies, Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots and Princess Aurora will be broadcast live from Moscow to cinemas around the UK.

March 21 – Music of Our Time, St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London

JAM presents the Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, Onyx Brass, Simon Hogan and Andrew Watts performing The Fifth Continent, conducted by Michael Bawtree. 7.30pm–9.30pm, tickets £12–£18.

January 11–March 17 – ‘Harold Pinter: A Line, a Word, an Image’, The British Library, London

A decade after his death, this display tracks the playwright’s career from the beginning through to his last play, Celebration, using reproductions of manuscripts and archive photographs.

February 2 to May 11 – All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre, London

Gillian Anderson and Lily James take the lead roles of Margo and Eve respectively in a stage production of the classic Joseph L. Mankiewicz film starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter – though this production also draws on the original 1946 story ‘The Wisdom of Eve’, by Mary Orr. It’s hard to imagine much better casting for the roles of an established star and the young hopeful who becomes her protégé. Tickets from £15 to £

March 13–31 – Richard III, Alexandra Palace Theatre, London

After an 80-year closure and a £27 million restoration, the Victorian theatre is back with this performance of Shakespeare’s tale of villainy, a co-production with Headlong and Bristol Old Vic. Tickets from £9.50.

From January 28 – The Mousetrap, various venues

The longest-running show in the world goes on a tour of the UK, starting in Guildford before moving on to Northampton, Sheffield, Colchester, Southport, Sunderland and many other theatres nationwide. See website for dates and to book.

January 30–May 4, 2019 – Beauty and the Beast, various venues

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s touring production of the 18th-century dark fairytale will visit Southampton, Birmingham, Plymouth, Edinburgh, Salford, Sunderland and Bristol. Ticket prices vary.

June 6–8 – The Party at the Castle, Sudeley Castle and Gardens, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire

Three evenings of concerts, with Alfie Boe, Will Young, All Saints and further acts to be announced. Tickets from £28.

Art and Exhibitions

February 14-March 2 – ‘Andrew Macara: New Paintings’, Jonathan Cooper, Park Walk, London SW10

Joy-filled oil paintings depicting children at play, skiing, sledging, ice skating and paddling in the sea.

Andrew Macara’s ‘Snowballers’

February 7–June 9 – Stephen Jones Hats at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Installations of glamorous and captivating headwear by the master milliner will be arranged throughout the rooms of the Regency seaside pleasure palace. Highlights include a table set with the hats of famous wearers such as The Duchess of Sussex in the Banqueting Room and a re-creation of a hat worn by George IV in a 1783 portrait.

Until February 23 – New work by Elaine Kazimierczuk, Brian Sinfield Gallery, Burford, Oxfordshire

Twenty-five new paintings by the self-taught artist, who specialises in semi-abstract studies of the natural world .

February 8–April 8 – ‘Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition’, 26, Leake Street, London

This global touring exhibition is a journey through the life of the freedom fighter and political leader. The 8,000sq ft interactive experience features film, photos and more than 150 artefacts and personal effects. Adult tickets £15.

Until March 1 – ‘A Home Away From Home: The India Club’, The India Club, The Strand, London

Small immersive exhibition based on an archive of oral-history interviews with descendants of founding members, former staff, freedom fighters, BBC reporters, artists and writers, showcasing the rich history and significance of the India Club. Ticketed, but free of charge.

February 11–17 – ‘Motherhood: An Exhibition’, 25 Blythe Road, London

Some 50 works exploring the theme will be on view, with oils and pastels by Amy Shuckburgh and bronze figures by Arabella Brooke. On February 13, there will also be an ‘in conversation’ event with author Clover Stroud, in aid of West London Action for Children.

Until March 24 – Prized Possessions: Dutch Masterpieces from National Trust Houses, Petworth House and Park, Petworth, West Sussex

Seventeenth-century Dutch paintings by masters of the Golden Age come together from National Trust properties around the country. This is the first time the exhibition will be seen in a country-house setting. Tickets £12.

Petworth House and Park

Until March 20 –The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, Willis Museum, Basingstoke

The best 80 works from the competition for contemporary watercolour painting in Britain, including the winning piece, The Prodigal Son by Sophie Charalambous, which ‘depicts a stylised male figure walking through an eerie farmyard setting’. Free admission, but donations welcome.

February 7–March 15 –Prints I Did Publish, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, Duke Street, London

Highlights from 50 years of printmaking at the gallery, with works by Malcolm Morley, Ivor Abrahams, Patrick Caulfield, Leon Kossoff, Ed Rusha and William Tillyer.

January 28–March 9 – ‘Echoes’, 3812 Gallery, Ryder Street, London SW1

New and recent works from UK-based Chinese contemporary ink artist Qu Leilei. The paintings capture the human form to an almost photographic extent.

Reclining nude by UK-based Chinese contemporary ink artist Qu Leilei

Until May 6 – ‘Modern Basketry by Lorna Singleton’, Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry, Abbot Hall, Kendal, Cumbria

Contemporary swill baskets, woven from strips of local oak by one of the two professional basket weavers still continuing the tradition in the Lake District.

January 18–March 20 – ‘Elizabeth Blackadder: From the Artist’s Studio’, The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre, Hampshire

Specially curated exhibition, which demonstrates the breadth and variety of the work of the painter and printmaker, who was given the title of Her Majesty’s Painter and Limner in Scotland in 2001. Free admission, suggested donation of £3.

Until June 1 – ‘Matilda Temperley: A View From the Hill’, Somerset Rural Life Museum, Glastonbury, Somerset

This collection of new images by the documentary and fashion photographer encapsulates the county’s distinctiveness, with portraits of peat diggers, cheesemakers and withy growers, as well as highlighting some of the issues faced by those living in the countryside.

January 5–April 22 – ‘Thelwell: Laughter and Landscapes’, Mottisfont, Hampshire

The much-loved cartoonist’s familiar characters are joined by watercolours, satirical observations and early-wartime sketches.

Until April 28, 2019 – ‘Seen and Heard: Victorian Children in the Frame’, Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard, London EC2

Fifty paintings, by artists including John Everett Millais, Thomas Webster and Lord Frederic Leighton, exploring the changing role of children in Britain under the influence of Queen Victoria’s family values. Adult admission £8.

Until February 24, 2019 – ‘The Furthest Lands’, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, West Yorkshire

Exhibition of work by Norman Ackroyd, one of Britain’s most celebrated landscape artists and print-makers. ‘The Furthest Lands’ covers 950 miles from the Shetland Islands to the south-west of Ireland through aquatint etchings and watercolours.