Retirement and Hobbies

Entertainment and Culture for November and December

Exhibitions to Visit in November and December

By Phyllis Oberman, Art Aficionado

This month Phyllis Oberman looks at some of the fabulous art and exhibitions you can visit in November and December. There are so many wonderful and different things for you to enjoy. 

Beauty Reigns

Whilst the Victorian industrial revolution was forging ahead, and some artists of the time were reflecting this in their work, Edward Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898) was becoming world-famous for his highly-coloured, lyrical paintings of mythical, historical and classical figures and scenes.

Sir Edward Burne-Jones: Laus Veneris (In Praise of Venus) 1873-75
The Laing Art Gallery

This new exhibition at Tate Britain, London, shows over 100 works including paintings, drawings, stained glass and tapestries all far away from the mills and mines of the industrial landscape.

Burne-Jones was a friend of William Morris and a member of the Pre-Raphaelites and worked with him on many projects. Much of his collaborative work with Morris was intended for a wider audience than just the average gallery-goer. They both believed in social reform and believed that it was important that their work and their Arts & Crafts designs should appeal to everyone.

Sir Edward Burne-Jones: The Rose Bower 1885-90, The Faringdon Collection Trust

The exhibition, Burne-Jones, continues at Tate Britain until 24th February 2019. During the run of the show there will be free talks and tours. Concessionary tickets are available. Full details can be found on the website

Pit Brow Lasses

Women and children aged under 10 were forbidden from working underground in the coal mines from around 1850.   After that time they were restricted to working above ground doing different tasks to earn their pittance. Former Welsh collier, Archie Rhys Griffiths painted women pit workers, known in Wales as Tip Girls. 

Archie Rhys Griffiths: On the Coal tips © Estate of Archie Rhys Griffiths

The latest exhibition at The Mining Art Gallery in Bishop Auckland is Breaking Ground: Women of the Northern Coalfields. This tells the story of the women who hauled coal tubs on the surface and others whose job was picking bits of stone out of the mined coal. They were known in Lancashire and the North as Pit Brow Lasses.

The income these women earned was critical to their existence and that of their families. This despite efforts in Parliament to stop them working even at the pit head. Amazingly the last woman working at the pit head retired in the 1960’s. Breaking Ground includes work by current artist, David Venables whose paintings reflects the former and present industrial scene in the North of England.

David Venables: Pit Brow Lasses © The Artist’s Estate

The Mining Art Gallery has a permanent collection of over 400 paintings and drawings  some by local artists and others by miners themselves.  

This fascinating exhibition continues until 24th March, 2019 and concessionary tickets are available. For further details visit

For Love Not Money

Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) the famous English portrait painter is the subject of two important exhibitions – at The National Portrait Gallery, London and The Holburne in Bath.

The Painter’s Daughters Chasing a Butterfly 1756,
The National Gallery London, Henry Vaughan Bequest 1900

Gainsborough’s Family Album at The National Portrait Gallery opening 22nd November, includes all twelve surviving portraits of his daughters as well as paintings of his wife and members of his wider family.  As Dr Nicholas Cullinan, NPG Director points out, this comprehensive show focuses on Gainsborough’s pictures made for love rather than for money.

Margaret and Mary Gainsborough by Thomas Gainsborough
c 1770-74 Private Collection

The paintings of his daughters follow their lives from girls to fashionable young women. Also included in this show of over fifty works is a fine self-portrait and an early picture of his father as well as a drawing of the family’s pet dogs – Tristram and Fox.

Thomas Gainsborough self portrait, 1756-59, National Portrait Gallery 

Gainsborough’s Family Album continues until 3rd February 2019 and concessionary tickets are available. For further details including curator-led tours, workshops and other special events visit

Gainsborough and his family lived in Bath from 1759 to 1774 before moving to London. During this time he became a popular portraitist among Bath’s fashionable elite whilst also sending pictures for inclusion in London exhibitions. 

Gainsborough and the Theatre is at The Holburne Museum in Bath until 20th January 2019. The Museum has gathered a collection of works including portraits of famous actors like James Quin and David Garrick shown acting in scenes from plays of the time, plus musicians, playwrights, designers and dancers.  

Concessionary tickets for the Gainsborough show at The Holburne also provide admittance to the Museum’s main displays. Look out for talks during the show’s run.  

For further details visit

Modern Colourist

Fernand Leger (1881-1955) was a French artist who developed a painting style that was so distinctive that it could not have come from anyone else.

Tate Liverpool now provides an opportunity – the first in 30 years in the UK – to get up close and personal with Leger’s wonderfully colourful work. Fernand Leger: New Times, New Pleasures opens on 23rd November, 2018 and continues until 17th March, 2019.

He trained as an architect but was quickly drawn in to the abstract and cubist styles of the early 1900’s. Leger’s service in the First World War, where he was the victim of a mustard gas attack, had an enormous effect on him.

Later he was strongly influenced by the scenes in post-war Paris of posters, neon signs and bright lights and gradually developed his distinctive style of work for which he is so well known.

Fernand Leger: Young Girl Holding a Flower, 1954 © The Fitzwilliam Museum

On show for the first time in Britain is Leger’s Essential Happiness: New Pleasures – a massive almost 31 feet wide work that he produced in collaboration with the architect and designer Charlotte Perriand for the Pavilion of Agriculture at the Paris International Exhibition of 1937.  

This huge panorama combines paint, collage and photography that Leger intended to convey a message of belief in rural life and hope for international cooperation.

Fernand Leger and Charlotte Perriand: Essential Happiness, New Pleasures,
1937, Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid

During his lifetime Leger was also commissioned to design stained glass windows and works in mosaic and, in collaboration with other artists, he produced films.

Full details about this exhibition and the various events, talks, tours and screenings can be found at:

Concessionary tickets are available. 

Garden Benefits

William Morris (1834-1896), designer, poet, novelist and socialist activist, believed that gardens were a truly important part of the home. He was especially involved in Arts and Crafts garden design in England and the US. 

Roses for the Invalid, 1894, by Ralph Hedley, © Laing Art Gallery Newcastle upon Tyne

The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, London, has a new show – The Enchanted Garden that continues until 27th January, 2019. 

September, 1915, by Edmund Blair Leighton © Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Gallery which was once the Morris family home, presents this free exhibition organised by The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle.

My Garden Design 1928 by CFA Voysey © Victoria & Albert Museum

Work by notable artists in the exhibition include Lucien Pissarro, Burne-Jones, Beatrix Potter, Stanley Spencer, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and designs by William Morris and CFA Voysey for textiles, tapestries and wallpaper. Full details can be obtained at

Royal Revival

When Charles II returned to England on 29th May, 1660 from exile in France following the end of Oliver Cromwell’s regime, one of his key tasks was to rebuild the Royal collection of artworks. Most of these royal treasures had been sold or dispersed by Cromwell.

Charles II c. 1670-75 by Simon Verelst

On 23rd November an exhibition Charles II: Art & Power opens at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse Edinburgh. Charles was determined to use his new art collection to reflect royal power and provide a back-drop to his luxurious Court. In fact the collection included not only paintings, sculptures and drawings but tapestries, furniture, silver and other decorative arts.

The Sea Triumph of Charles II c. 1674 by Antonio Verrio

The exhibition continues until 2nd June 2019. For full information on ticket prices, opening hours go to

Italy Between Wars  

Paintings and sculpture from a private Italian collection can be seen in London at The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art. The exhibition that continues until 23rd December, 2018, comes from the collection of a Milanese lawyer, Giuseppe Iannaccone , who started buying these key works in the early 1990’s.

Street with Red House, 1928 by Mario Mafai
Courtesy Giuseppe Iannaccone Collection, Milan

A New Figurative Art 1920-1945: Works from the Giuseppe Iannaccone Collection reveals much about life and art in Italy at a time when artists were well aware of the threats and dangers of militarism and nationalism lurking in the background.

Portrait of Mimise 1938 by Renato Guttuso
Courtesy of the Giuseppe Iannaccone Collection, Milan

The Estorick is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and concessionary tickets are available. Full details are available from  

Photography As Art

The Victoria & Albert Museum in Kensington, London has collected photography since its foundation in 1852.

It has now opened its fascinating new Photography Centre and this houses a remarkable historic exhibition which includes the National Collection of the Art of Photography.

The Centre’s first exhibition Collecting Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital shows how this art form developed.

Mousetrap Camera owned by William Henry Fox Talbot c 1835 © The Royal Photographic Society Collection at The V&A

Over 600 objects from across the world have been brought together for this exhibition.

On entering the new Centre visitors walk through a spectacular installation of 150 cameras.

Still Life With Fruit and Decanter by Roger Fenton, 1860
© The Royal Photographic Society Collection at The V&A

A second phase of The V&A’s Photography Centre will expand it further, and there are plans for it to open in 2022. This will include a teaching and research space. There will also be a browsing library.  

From an Album of Russian types c 1860 by William Carrick (1827-78)
© Victoria & Albert Museum

Entrance to the new Photography Centre is free. Details of talks by leading photographers, screenings, courses and workshops can be found at

To find details of other exhibitions at museums and galleries click on

Favourite Gallery or Museum

If you have a favourite local art gallery or museum that you would like to share with Sixtyplusurfers readers, please send the details to Phyllis Oberman care of Sixtyplusurfers to Jenny Itzcovitz at

Please label the subject of your email Favourite Art Gallery and Museum for Phyllis Oberman’s column.

Christmas Day Out

Victorian Christmas Weekends at Blists
Hill Victorian Town

Travel back over 100 years to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a traditional Victorian Christmas over the two weekends of 8th – 9th and 15th – 16th December at Blists Hill Victorian Town, near Ironbridge, Shropshire.

Soak up the yuletide atmosphere with seasonal entertainment and activities. Chat to the Victorian townsfolk as they busily make preparations for Christmas, 1800s style, meet Father Christmas and his reindeer and enjoy some festive food and drink in the cafés and New Inn or perhaps treat yourself to some fish and chips.

Explore the traditionally decorated streets then step inside and warm up by the fireside in the cosy cottages. Sing- a-long with the brass bands and carol singers, see the falconry displays and watch scenes from a Christmas pantomime and the traditional Punch and Judy show, then take a horse and cart ride around the Town.

A visit is also a great excuse to call into the Victorian shops around the Town, where you will find unusual Christmas gifts like traditionally made cast-iron paperweights and doorstops, handmade plaster decorations, perfumed soaps and old fashioned sweets. 

Children can join in the festive hands-on activities to dip candles, print a Christmas message and hang it on the Wishing Tree or take a photo with a traditional Victorian backdrop in Selfie Corner.

One of the ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums in Shropshire, Blists Hill will be open from 10am to 4pm on these Victorian Christmas weekends. Entry is £17.95 for adults, £12.70 for 60 plus and £10.90 for children 5 – 16 years.

For an extra £3.50 per child you can visit Father Christmas in his grotto and receive a gift to take home.

Print-at-home tickets can be purchased online in advance or you can pay at the gate on arrival. Annual Passports are not valid for these weekends but current Passport holders will receive a 25% discount on presentation of a valid Annual Passport.

The Gorge is easily reached via the M54 motorway exiting at Telford junction 4 or 6.

For further information please call the Ironbridge Tourist Information Centre on  Telephone: 01952 433 424

Or visit

Christmas at Hever Castle

Revel In Traditional Christmas Tales And Celebrate The Festive Season at Hever 

This year, Hever Castle will be celebrating Traditional Christmas Tales as part of its annual festive event.

Rooms of the Castle will be beautifully decorated and themed around stories including the Nutcracker, The Tailor of Gloucester and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas with twinkling lights and welcoming log fires.

Outside in the stunning grounds wrap up warm and discover the festive interactive trail themed around Charles Dickens’ classic novel ‘A Christmas Carol’. As dusk falls, the gardens are illuminated with up-lighting and colour washes.

Revel in the Christmas spirit at Hever Castle Wednesdays to Sundays from 24th November and daily from 10th to 24th December.

Each weekend and daily from selected dates ride the carousel and enjoy vintage fairground stalls (£1 per go), roast chestnuts for sale and the chance to meet characters along the trail including Bob Cratchit and Scrooge and pose for a picture with a husky (suggested £2 donation towards Siberian Husky Welfare Association).

Twilight Christmas and pre-booked Father Christmas are now sold out but children may still get the chance to meet Father Christmas in the Toy Workshop as part of the drop in Father Christmas offering on 8th, 9th, 15th, 16th, 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd December.

Kids will have the opportunity to visit him on a first come first served basis and will receive an age-appropriate gift. Tickets cost £8.00 per child and can only be purchased in the grounds on the day, at the Information Centre or Courtyard Shop (Admission tickets are required for all members of the party).

Complete your visit with relaxed Christmas shopping in the beautifully decorated Hever Castle shops packed with fabulous festive gift ideas and stocking fillers to delight all ages and tastes.

Follow this up with tempting treats in the restaurants where our chefs will be offering delicious seasonal food, mince pies and drinks.

For further information about Christmas activities see

Christmas at Blenheim

  Christmas Market at Blenheim Palace

This Christmas, Blenheim Palace will be transformed, both inside and out, showcasing the biggest Christmas ever to take place at the Oxfordshire World Heritage Site. New for 2018 the Palace’s Great Court will be transformed into a market village from 23rd November.

The new market extends from day into night tempting visitors with a remarkable range of festive shopping. Set within wooden-style chalets, beneath the stunning backdrop of the Baroque Palace exterior, visitors can escape the bustle of the high street and soak up the festive atmosphere.

Filled with a variety of hand-picked, irresistible gifts, unique works by a range of designers and tempting treats for foodies, it’s the perfect addition to a Christmas day out at Blenheim Palace.

Discover over 80 individual chalets featuring handmade British crafts, artwork and jewellery, selling gifts from stocking fillers to unique present ideas. With a special showcase of products not found on the high street the Christmas Market at Blenheim Palace will offer visitors a unique experience.

From gifts by artisan local producers to Australian Christmas Puddings there is something for everyone. With ceramics, textiles, homewares, leather goods, jewellery, toys, stationery, bags, hats and so much more, it is the perfect place for visitors to begin their Christmas shopping!

Discover Proppa Troppa, milliners who create exquisite hats and other crafts. Established in 1997 by Clare Butterton after graduating as a Fashion Designer and Milliner and working under famous London fashion houses.

Pick up stocking-fillers and tree decorations from Fiona Jackson, who creates quirky British craftsmanship decorations.

Try tempting handmade chocolates from Cassie Bond who makes artisan confectionery, perfect as a treat for yourself or a gift for friends and family.

Don’t miss stopping by the Roger Shelton English Fruit Gins & Liqueurs chalet to try deliciously moreish concoctions.

With a new indoor Cinderella experience taking over the Palace State Rooms during the day and a bigger and better Christmas light trail illuminating the ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped Parkland in the evening; visitors can expect an incredible festive extravaganza from November 2018.

Christmas at Blenheim Palace is from 23rd November 2018 – 6th January 2019.

For details about Christmas at Blenheim visit

Christmas at Kew

Visit Kew Gardens
at Christmas

This Christmas, Kew Gardens will once again transform into a magical after dark explosion of festive colour, as visitors embark on an illuminated trail inspired by the Gardens themselves, for the much-anticipated Christmas at Kew 2018. Now a firm favourite in the London festive calendar, this year’s trail will offer an utterly new experience of art, light and sound from a roster of incredible international artists. 

The festive voyage will begin, as is tradition, with an incredible archway – a gateway into another world of glistening lights, fire and colour. Visitors will first encounter the Field of Light, created by Brighton-based artists Ithaca. An awe-inspiring expanse of dancing lights spreading towards Kew’s towering Great Pagoda, which has just been painstakingly restored to its former glory, adorned with 80 golden dragons.

300 illuminated origami boats and a cathedral of lights…

Next up, visitors will enter the mesmerising laser garden, by Australia-based creative studio Mandylights. They’ll find a revelry of forever dancing beams of light, highlighting for just moments at a time, the natural beauty of the woodland trees. As they cross Kew’s glistening lake, visitors will be greeted by the captivating sight of 300 illuminated origami boats floating on the water, an installation by Italian artists Asther & Hemera.

As the trail continues many more treasures await, including Firework Trees lit up by explosions of coloured light and a walkway of suspended illuminated ribbons that visitors can wonder through and stop for a selfie. A firm favourite each year, the famous tunnel of lights will be taken to a whole new level, forming a veritable Cathedral of Light, reaching 7 m tall and 100m in length, the biggest tunnel of lights ever seen at Kew.

Fire garden and enchanted walkway

The ethereal atmosphere will continue with a warm flickering fire garden leading to a huge dome of tubular lights inside which visitors can enjoy a festive drink. They will then enter an enchanted walkway of giant glowing peonies and papyrus, brought to Kew by French artists TILT.  Kew’s Great Broad Walk Borders, the world’s longest double herbaceous border, will be flanked by towering 11m high flower sculptures, and by illuminated benches, where visitors can relax and admire the view along the promenade.

Visitors will marvel at the outstanding natural beauty of the Gardens themselves, particularly Kew’s incredible heritage trees. Seen from a totally different perspective, festooned with lights, their majestic forms are a reminder of the importance of trees to all our lives.

And the famous Palm House finale…

Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas at Kew without the show-stopping Palm House finale. The pond and magnificent glasshouse will spring to life with an explosion of colourful criss-crossing laser beams, jumping jets of light, and kaleidoscopic projections playing across a giant water screen.

Christmassy extras… including Santa!

Youngsters will delight in spotting Santa and his helpers performing along the trail, and White Peaks will once again become a festival fairground with a Victorian carousel and other rides for the little ones. As the winter trail comes to an end, visitors will be greeted by the scent of mulled wine, mince pies and other festive foods from a variety of enticing stalls at Victoria Plaza.

Tickets are on sale now. For details visit  

Christmas Tree Wonderland

New Winter Attraction at Bournemouth

Voted the UK’s best seaside resort and boasting the best beach, the South’s most celebrated coastal town is set to seal its reputation as the ultimate year-round destination with the arrival of a brand new winter attraction for 2018 – Bournemouth Christmas Tree Wonderland.

In a partnership supported by Bournemouth’s Town Centre and Coastal Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) as well as Bournemouth Borough Council, the attraction represents a four-year investment in the town. Delivered by the team behind the town’s award-winning international air festival, the Christmas Tree Wonderland is a unique trail featuring more than 100 glittering trees and illuminations.

Opening on 16th November and running through until the beginning of January, the free trail will start with an illuminated big wheel at the resort’s award-winning seafront, before weaving through the historic Lower Gardens – and features iconic themed trees from cities around the world including Moscow, St Petersburg, Bethlehem, Seattle and Warsaw, as well as a Tree of Light and canopy of cascading lights over Pine Tree Walk.

The centrepiece of the attraction will be the Bournemouth Wonderland Tree – a 60ft LED spectacle comprising 30,000 individual lights programmed for regular sound and light shows.

A famously family-friendly resort, dotted around Bournemouth will be a series of enchanting illuminations including a giant teddy bear, gingerbread people and a giant bauble, as well as animated polar bears, a snow lion, fairies and elves. There will also be a magical Santa’s grotto along the trail in the Lower Gardens and entertainment across the resort at specific periods.

With such an expansive attraction, local operator, Yellow Buses has jumped on board as Bournemouth Christmas Tree Wonderland’s Exclusive Bus Transport Provider to help residents and visitors travel around the destination.

Of course, there will be a traditional alpine market – with a two-storey lodge-style bar.

Visitors to Bournemouth can once again, enjoy skating under the stars in the fairy-tale setting of the town’s Grade II-listed Victorian gardens. SKATE is back with the addition of an ice path allowing skaters to venture off the main rink.

Elsewhere in town, Rita Simons stars in Sleeping Beauty at the Pavilion Theatre, Eve Bunting’s book Night Tree is brought to life in a magical interactive performance at Pavilion Dance South West and the Bournemouth International Centre hosts its Cool Coast indoor ice rink.

For details of the Wonderland visit

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