Retirement and Hobbies

Entertainment and Culture for May

 Exhibitions & Galleries to Visit in May

By Phyllis Oberman, Art Aficionado

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

Art Temple Hits 250

The Royal Academy, considered the world’s most significant artist and architect-led institution, will celebrate its 250th anniversary on 19th May by opening a hugely larger establishment. The new RA links the original building in Piccadilly, London, to Burlington Gardens the building behind in Burlington Street.

The redeveloped two-acre site will now be able to show historic treasures from its collection, the work of its Royal Academicians and the RA’s schools plus magnificent world-famous exhibitions in a host of new galleries.

Diagram showing a slice through the new Royal Academy

The new RA Collection Gallery will include Michelangelo’s ‘Tadeo Tondo’ sculpture and an almost life-size 16th century copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ and works focusing on the RA’s first sixty years chosen by the President of the RA, Christopher Le Brun.

Impression of the Collection Gallery in 2018

Over 10,000 items from the RA’s collection are now available online for all to see. This digital enterprise includes, sculptures, paintings, artists letters, and books.

For details visit the website at 


Founded by King George 111 in 1768 The Royal Academy celebrates 250 years of its world-famous Summer Exhibition that has been held every year with no interruption since 1769. The Great Spectacle: 250 Years of the Summer Exhibition will be staged in  a range of rooms in the RA from 12th June to 19th August in parallel with the actual show.

There will be over 80 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, displayed in chronological order, from the earliest days up to the present including work by John Constable, JMW Turner, John Singer Sargent, to Tracy Emin and David Hockney.

The Great Spectacle: William Powell Frith’s A Private View at the Royal Academy, 1881

This painting was exhibited in 1883 Summer Exhibition and shows how paintings were displayed at the time – ‘cheek by jowl’ occupying virtually all available wall space.

For full details of the new Royal Academy, events, tours and ticket prices go to

Gardens Galore

Images of gardens and green spaces from around the world are on show from 9th May to 7th August in York Museum Gardens.

This free display features the winning entries in the 12th International Garden Photographer of the Year

There were 19,000 entries from over 50 countries in Competition 11 and the winning entries will be shown as part of an international tour visiting Germany, Gibraltar, Portugal and The Netherlands.

The overall winning entry comes from Brazil – Cerrado Sunrise by Marcio Cabril. It shows the exotic sparkling flowers of Paepalanthus chiquitensis stretching across the landscape towards the rising sun.
     Cerrado Sunrise by Marcio Cabril

This international competition is open to all ages, amateur and professional and also has a Young Garden Photographer of the Year award for under 17’s.

For further information visit the website at

Ancient Inspiration

The famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), known for his most popular work The Kiss as well as The Thinker, was a regular visitor to London’s British Museum.

What attracted him was the museum’s remarkable collection of ancient Greek sculptures including works from the Parthenon frieze. During his life he made many visits to sketch the sculptures from the 1880s onwards.

The Shade (1880-81) by Auguste Rodin, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Rodin is quoted in 1902 as saying, “in my spare time I simply haunt the British Museum”. Now in collaboration with the Musee Rodin in Paris, The British Museum will mount a special exhibition, Rodin and the art of Ancient Greece, of over 80 Rodin works in marble, bronze and plaster as well as his sketches made in the museum.

The exhibition is very special because the museum is showing it in a large new gallery (the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery) alongside the Parthenon sculptures that inspired him so. Whilst never copying the ancient Greek works Rodin found great inspiration for his own sculptures.

Visitors to this show will be able to contrast and compare the ancient Greek works from the fifth-century BC with the French sculptors 19th and 20th century creations.

The British Museum in 1890 showing some of the ancient
Greek sculptures from The Parthenon in Athens

The exhibition including a version of The Kiss, continues until 29th July, 2018.   Concessionary tickets are available and full information can be found at

Face Facts

Rugby Art Gallery and Museum has an exhibition – About Face – focusing on portraits  aiming to take a deeper look at the portraits and self-portraits and the artists who created them.

There are major loans from the National Portrait Gallery, The Lowry and the museums own collection.

Pictures from the National Portrait Gallery include self-portraits by Lucien Freud, Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi. The Rugby gallery’s 2018 theme is ‘people and places’ and the events programme includes a range of talks and practical master-classes on portraiture.

      Head of a Man, by LS Lowry 1938,
  copyright The Lowry Collection Salford

This show is funded by The Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund, a programme that enables smaller local council galleries and museums to display pictures from major national galleries.

Entry to the gallery is free and further information can be found at

Voyages of Discovery

This year marks 250 years since Captain Cook set off from Plymouth on his first voyage in his ship Endeavour. Though the basic information about his travels is known to most of us, at the British Library in London, until 28th August 2018 visitors are now able to view remarkable collection of original material from Cook’s three voyages plus newly-commissioned videos to expand the story.

Tahitian Scene by Tupaia

On board ship were not just the crew but artists, scientists and naturalists who recorded their findings to bring back to Britain. Captain Cook’s handwritten journals and log books , maps, artwork and more throws much light on these pioneering journeys.

On the first expedition a Polynesian high priest and navigator, Tupaia, joined the ship at Tahiti and remained on the journey to New Zealand and Australia. Tupaia was a capable artist and his paintings and drawings are going on display for the first time along with work from the expedition artists Sydney Parkinson, John Webber and William Hodges.

James Cook: The Voyages continues until 28th August, 2018 and concessionary tickets are available and National Art Pass holders get half-price tickets.

For further information click on

A Lifetime’s Work

Book illustrator, graphic designer, master printmaker and fine artist, Edward Bawden RA CBE, is the subject of a major retrospective exhibition opening at Dulwich Picture Gallery on 23rd May 2018.

Bawden (1903 – 1989) believed that ‘commercial’ work was of equal merit with fine art and the exhibition demonstrates his diverse talent.

Edward Bawden, Brighton Pier 1958.  Linocut on paper,
The Higgins, Bedford © Estate of Edward Bawden

This show spanning his 60-year career displays 160 works, many from private collections previously unseen.

The display is divided into sections including leisure and pleasure, plants and gardens, places and architecture.   As an official war artist in the second world war, Bawden spent those years moving around North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Despite his diffidence about making portraits there are images of various local nationalities  as well as pictures he made of servicemen from African nations.

The Bawden archive is at the Cecil Higgins Collection at Bedford and a number of their exhibits have been loaned to Dulwich.

This wonderful exhibition continues until 9th September 2018. Concessionary tickets are available.

Full details can be found on the website at

Art in Brief

Night Moves

Twice a year the Museums At Night festival takes place and from 16th to 19th of May 2018 the arts charity Culture 24 presents after-hours access to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic spaces all over the UK.  

Museums At Night symbol

Events include secret tours, theatre and dance, music, light shows, talks and demonstrations and much more. Many of these special openings are free.

It is easy to find Museums At Night events in your locality via the search page at  

Visit Heritage

A new website has been launched to present details of historic homes, gardens, castles and other heritage sites in the UK by the publishers of Hudson’s heritage guide. Go to

Painter and Poet

An exhibition, Springlines, combining the work of poet Clare Best and painter Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis can be seen at Lymington’s St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery until 10th June, 2018. 

A Found Place by Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis

The two creatives explored the south of England seeking natural settings in woods and countryside where ponds, ancient wells and chalk springs combined with nature.

Concessionary tickets are available.

Further information can be found on the website at

Glass Art

Artists working in glass are showcased at a new exhibition, Art of Glass at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.  

In conjunction with The National Centre for Craft & Design this event brings to the public the innovative and decorative creations that glass artists produce today.  

Entrance to the exhibition is free.

Further details can be found on the website at

‘Beauty Tricks’ 2018 by Pinkie Maclure, image by Pinkie Maclure

 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.

Vintage Weekend

Join in the Vintage 1940s Weekend
at Lavenham 

Celebrate all things from the 1940s at the Lavenham Vintage Weekend between Friday 18th and Monday 21st May. The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa are supporting Friends of Lavenham Airfield (FOLA) to host a series of special vintage events for all ages in and around the village.

In particular, the Vintage Weekend will commemorate the 75th anniversary of RAF Lavenham (AAF station 137) being built by Laing’s in 1943 for use by the US forces stationed in East Anglia’s in support of World War II, known as the ‘Friendly Invasion’.

Amongst the many events being planned are a vintage fair and vehicle display; 1940s swing dance in the village hall; evacuees’ exhibition in Little Hall, which was the village wartime evacuee centre; a sing-a-long vintage afternoon tea at The Swan Hotel and a history talk. There will also be a visit to Lavenham Airfield, which isn’t normally open to the public; a commemorative church service and ‘In Gratitude’ gathering in front of the memorial plaque (Market Place) for the 487th Bombardment Group, which was stationed at Lavenham during WWII.

Although long departed the names of the 487th Bombardment Group remain inscribed on the walls of the Old Bar in The Swan Hotel. Renamed the Airmen’s Bar, it’s full of memorabilia and signatures of the servicemen, some of whom took up the challenge of downing 3.5 pints of ale from a glass boot and how long it took them; the record seems to be an amazing 40 seconds held by RAF serviceman WH Culling!

As the weekend coincides with the royal wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, The Swan will be televising the ceremony at a gala lunch in its Gallery restaurant.

Vintage events will continue to be held annually in Lavenham during May leading up to the 75th anniversary of VE Day on 8th May 2020. The commencement of operational flights by the 487th BG will be remembered between 17th and 20th May 2019.

Some events take place throughout the weekend, others are on specific days and some can be pre-booked; 1940s dress is encouraged but optional.

For more information please visit, which will be updated as the event dates draw nearer, or call Lavenham Tourist Information Centre on 01787 248207.

To book a stay at The Swan call Telephone: 01787 247477 

Walking Festival in May

Ironbridge Gorge Walking Festival

Now in its 13th year, the annual Ironbridge Gorge Walking Festival, 5 – 13 May, is offering 53 free walks, making it probably the biggest in the West Midlands and one of the best in the country.

The Festival offers a number of ‘themed’ walks ranging from two to 21 miles covering a whole host of topics from the wonderful landscape and geology of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site to the wildlife that inhabits The Gorge’s ancient woodlands. The walks are graded in terms of suitability for walks for everyone through to walks for experienced countryside walkers. 

New for 2018

The Festival has a number of brand-new walks for 2018 which include an 8-mile steam-train walk taking in the Telford Steam Railway and a 4-mile walk that looks at Ironbridge through the eyes of tourists over the past 200 years. Also new are the Family Walks – a 4.5-mile walk, encompassing a photo trail around the local woodland. Food-lovers will enjoy a new 10-mile walk that takes in the pretty local village Little Wenlock and its renowned pub, The Huntsman, where lunch will be available to buy.

The Festival kicks-off on 5 May with a 21-mile walk to the ‘Thankful’ village of Harley on the stunning Wenlock Edge. Harley is the only ‘Thankful’ village in Shropshire – known as such because all men sent to the First World War returned safely.

A couple of walks will take in views of the impressive cooling towers of the former Ironbridge power station. The towers are marked for demolition in the near future so these walks are a wonderful chance to catch a glimpse of these four light-pink concrete monoliths.

Some of the walks are timed to enable carers and parents with school aged children to participate and there are some evening walks starting at around 6pm.

There are a number of routes for the more serious walker with the aim of providing a challenging but enjoyable day out. They range in length from 12 to 21 miles and mainly involve walking away from roads; some include steep ascents. Walkers will also need to carry enough food and water for the whole day.

There is also an opportunity to complete the 50 or 100-mile challenge in the nine days by completing the series of daily 10 – 15 mile walks. Some of these comprise two walks of six miles each, with a break to allow time for lunch in Ironbridge.

All walks are free, however pre-booking is essential as numbers are limited to a maximum of 20 people. Well behaved dogs on a lead are welcome on some walks, but please check before booking.

For more details about the walks visit

Kew Gardens Restoration

 Temperate House 
at Kew is Restored

Kew Gardens is completing its largest restoration project in its entire history. On 5 May, the doors of its spectacular Temperate House will be thrown open, revealing 10,000 breathtaking plants, making this magnificent structure the true jewel in Kew’s crown – an architectural wonder, horticulturists’ haven, the most captivating of classrooms. 

The world’s largest Victorian glasshouse will once again be home – as it had been since its birth in 1863 – to some of the world’s rarest and most threatened plants. In contrast to their sumptuous, romantic surroundings, these plants present a stark message; despite being the foundation of pretty much all life on earth, we are allowing them to fall prey to a variety of threats.

When the last plant of a particular species dies out, what might it take with it? A new cure for cancer? Or ebola? The Temperate House will tell the stories of the plants that Kew has rescued, and the journeys they have taken to reach the sanctuary of their new home.

Entering the glasshouse, visitors will embark on a round-the-world adventure. They might find themselves in Mauritius, where they will see Dombeya mauritiana, a tree that was thought to be extinct in the wild until Kew’s renowned ‘plant messiah’ Carlos Magdalena found one growing in the Mauritian highlands.

After many trials and tribulations (including forming a human ladder to reach the lowest branch), Carlos was able to gather and return with cuttings, and Kew is now the only place in the world with this tree in cultivation. Around the corner, transported to the mountains of Nepal, visitors will encounter the Taxus wallichiana, exploited for the Taxol market (a chemotherapy drug) and now subject to a clonal propagation program to help conserve it in the wild.

Richard Barley, Director of Horticulture at RBG Kew says, “Over the past few months, I have watched as some of the world’s rarest plants finally reach their home. And what a home it will be – a glistening cathedral, the new glass allowing the sun to stream in, the ironwork restored to its glossy best.

“The Temperate House will be for everyone. From young to old, for budding gardeners or aspiring artists, for those making a pilgrimage from great distances, and for our local community, we hope every visitor will see plants in a new light”.

The Painstaking Restoration

Originally designed by world-famous architect Decimus Burton, heritage architects Donald Insall have updated and modernised key features to enable the building to function as a contemporary working space. Over 69,000 individual elements were removed from the building and cleaned, repaired or replaced. This included the replacement of a staggering 15,000 panes of glass.

Aimée Felton, lead architect on the project says, “The restoration of the Temperate House has been a complex and immensely rewarding project, recalibrating contemporary understanding of Victorian architecture and the development of past innovations.

“New glazing, mechanical ventilation systems, path and bedding arrangements all took their founding principles from Decimus Burton’s own drawings, held within Kew’s archives. The time it will take for the newly propagated plants to reach maturity will offer visitors a full and unobstructed view of the incredible metal skeleton in all its glory: a cutting-edge sanctuary for plants.”

The restoration was made possible thanks to incredible support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Their Chief Executive, Ros Kerslake, says, “We know from speaking to National Lottery players the value they put on protecting and understanding the natural world – a value that also makes the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew one of our best-loved visitor attractions.

“Our grant of nearly £15m has helped give The Temperate House some much-needed repairs as well as a new sense of purpose.  This extraordinary glass structure has always epitomised all that is wonderful about these gardens – it is a magical place with a massive heart, which makes a huge contribution to biodiversity and natural heritage.”  

It has been a priority for Kew to ensure that the re-opening of the Temperate House elicits rich engagement with the local community. Based on significant evidence showing links between health, wellbeing and connecting to nature, the opening of the first ever Kew Community Allotments have been created to engage with a wide range of groups including those with additional needs.

Kew is also working with local children’s centres to invite young parents and children to take part in the first ever Kew Babies programme, where they learn through craft and music activities.

For details visit

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