14 brilliant things to do in Herts in February

PUBLISHED: 10:57 01 February 2016 | UPDATED: 14:55 02 February 2016

Germain Greer is one of the star guests at Bishops Stortford College's Festival of Literature this month

Germain Greer is one of the star guests at Bishops Stortford College's Festival of Literature this month


Here’s our pick of the best events in Hertfordshire during February 2016

Poppy + George is a romantic comedy inspired by the great days of Music Hall.Poppy + George is a romantic comedy inspired by the great days of Music Hall.

FEBRUARY 4 and 5

Bedtime story takes to stage

Bedtime favourite We’re Going On A Bear Hunt was first published in 1989 and remains as popular as ever. Written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, it is a charmingly simple account of a family setting out on a walk, determined to make an adventure of it. With words that prompt actions and noises – something little ones love – the book has been adapted for the stage and is touring the country.

Join the intrepid explorers on their quest with catchy songs, interactive scenes and plenty of noise at Radlett Centre on February 4 and 5


I loved you & you

When Welsh composer and mezzo soprano Morfydd Owen closed her eyes she would hear nothing but music – songs, symphonies and piano pieces would pour through her mind.

A society girl and a beauty (by the time she was 21 she had received 21 proposals of marriage), she mixed with D H Lawrence, Ezra Pound and psychoanalyst Ernest Jones – a close associate of Freud – whose marriage proposal she did accept.

Dance company Sweetshop Revolution presents I Loved You and I Loved You about her relationship with her husband and intense friendship with Elliot Crawshay Williams, private secretary to Winston Churchill, before her death at 26 from what is thought to have been a botched operation for appendicitis. The performance features Morfydd’s compositions.

Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, February 5.

All that jazz

If you love jazz, the name Digby Fairweather will be very familiar to you. A former librarian from Southend-on Sea, he has been performing as a full-time jazz musician since 1977. ‘The trumpet is the reason I came into jazz – and that is the way I want it to stay,’ he says.

Digby and his trumpet have worked with a great many bands and musicians including Lennie Hastings, Dave Shepherd’s All Stars, and George Melly. He is also the founder of the National Jazz Archive and in 2013 was a multiple award winner, including a Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to Jazz at presentations by the Worshipful Company of Musicians.

Celebrating 21 years of gigs, he and his band the Half Dozen are performing at the Rhodes Arts Complex on February 5.


Festival of Literature

Audiences are promised an exciting line-up at the Bishop’s Stortford College 2016 Festival of Literature, which kicks off its seventh year on February 5 with performance poet Sara Hirsch. On the same day, feminist icon Germaine Greer will consider the fate of ‘the disappearing woman’ and offer potential solutions. Other highlights of the week-long event include MasterChef semi-finalist Saira Hamilton demonstrating how to make a Bengali curry supper using everyday ingredients and comedian Arthur Smith talking about his life, dispensing gags and reading from his memoir My Name is Daphne Fairfax. David and Ben Crystal will explore how they unlocked the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, while storyteller Ben Haggerty will discuss some full-blooded fairy-tales for grown-ups.

Full details are at bishopsstortfordcollege.org/214/festival-of-literature


Frolicking night

The international burlesque and cabaret show Let’s Fall in Love arrives at the Rhodes Arts Complex, Bishop’s Stortford, on February 6 for a special performance in aid of the West Essex Young Stroke Support Group.

Performers set to take centre stage include the provocative Velma Bon Bon (right), the enchanting Vanity von Glow, the seductive ‘boy-lesque’ charmer Dave the Bear and the stunning Athena Beauvoir.

Audiences are promised a night of ‘frolicking and flamboyant festivities’ produced by Sadie Sinner of Cue Tease Burlesque, who has returned to her roots in Bishop’s Stortford, where she attended Hockerill Anglo-European College and later taught after-school dance classes and staged dramatic performances.


Russian symphonies

Two major examples of 20th-century Russian music are being presented in one evening on February 7 as part of the 2016 programme at the University of Hertfordshire’s Weston Auditorium when the de Havilland Philharmonic Orchestra presents its February concert.

Starting at 7.30pm, the programme features the Symphonic Dances from 1940, Rachmaninov’s last composition, showing him at the height of his orchestral powers.

This is followed by Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5 from 1937, an ironically-patriotic work that found instant popularity and led to a huge standing ovation for the composer.


Relax for charity

If you fancy a touch of the good life while helping charity, Michael Sobell Hospice (michaelsobellhospice.co.uk) is holding its third annual Indulgence Evening on February 10 at the London School of Theology, Northwood, offering the chance to relax and try a range of taster therapies in a calming atmosphere.

Treatments include mini-makeovers, massages, reflexology, Indian head massages and mini-facials. There will also be hairdressing services, talks and stalls selling jewellery and handmade oils and creams.

Tickets are £16, including a glass of bubbly, taster therapies and a goody bag.


Write here, write now

On February 11 and 12, Rhodes Arts Complex is showcasing the next generation of playwrights and their winning entries in Contexture Theatre’s new playwriting festival Write Here! Write Now! A professional cast of actors and directors will present the winning plays from four age categories, Primary (10 and under), Secondary (11-18), Young (18-25) and 25 and over. The overall winner will see his or her work developed and produced by the theatre.


A new world

The year is 1919 and the Great War is over. Poppy Wright arrives in London from the North to try to establish herself in a strange, uncertain place. In the heart of the East End, she meets a Russian Jewish tailor, a fading music-hall star and George, a chauffeur and recently-returned soldier. Together the trio form a curious bond and in time Poppy and George fall in love. In a changing world they look to new opportunities and the roles open to them in their relationship and beyond.

Poppy + George is a romantic comedy inspired by the great days of Music Hall. Watford Palace Theatre, February 12-27.


Raising roof at cathedral

Harpenden-based chamber choir the Lea Singers will be joined by top performers from the world of classical music for a special performance of Bach’s choral masterpiece the St Matthew Passion in St Albans Cathedral on February 13.

The production will be directed by Thomas Guthrie, who has previously worked at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, with renowned tenor James Gilchrist taking the role of the Evangelist, or narrator.

One of the vocal soloists is Helen Charlston, who grew up and lives in Harpenden and is now a professional singer performing with many of London‘s top orchestras, while the concert will be conducted by Lea Singers’ musical director Benjamin Goodson (pictured), who also grew up in Hertfordshire and is making a name for himself as a promising young conductor.


A picture of Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray are perhaps Dublin-born poet, editor, essayist, novelist and playwright Oscar Wilde’s best known works. A controversial figure through his books, his private life was equally tumultous. Married with children, he had an affair with a young Lord Alfred Douglas that led to his arrest for gross indecency in 1895 after a botched attempt to sue Alfred’s father for libel (he had called Wilde a sodomite). Wilde was imprisoned for two years, an experience which left him broken. He died of meningitis aged just 46.

The life and works of the great writer are examined in Oscar, a musical by Frayed Knot Theatre Company, at the Court Theatre in Pendley from February 17-20.


A space to be free

Comedian, presenter, author and political satirist Mark Thomas first appeared as a guest comic on the Mary Whitehouse Experience in the late ’80s. Since then, he has performed political stunts on his show, The Mark Thomas Comedy Product, and made numerous appearances on TV and radio. He has also embarked on more than a few national tours and is setting off again this month with his new show, Trespass.

On February 26 at the Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, audiences can experience his unique mix of theatre, stand-up, activism and a fair bit of mayhem as he explores people power in the face of dominating corporates and urban living.

Donovan’s 10 good reasons

With his blond hair, blue eyes and chiselled good looks, Jason Donovan was every 1980s’ girl’s dream thanks to his role in the Aussie soap Neighbours. Alongside on-screen girlfriend Kylie Minogue, he went on to be one of the stars of the hugely-successful Stock Aitken and Waterman pop song writing team.

Since that golden era, he has come through drug addiction, appeared in hit West End musicals and is currently a presenter on Heart Radio. He has a new album out too, 10 Good Reasons, and on February 26 at the Watford Colosseum will perform new tracks along with his greatest hits. Go swoon.


A modern man

Chris Ramsey is a young stand-up comedian from the North East most recently seen on ITV’s raucous Celebrity Juice. He began performing just a few years ago and like many comedy peers has put in his time at the Edinburgh Festival. His second show, Offermation, received a nomination for the Fosters’ Comedy Award and went on to a national sell-out tour. His new show, All Growed Up, explores the business of reluctantly entering the age of modern adulthood. See him at The Radlett Centre on February 28.

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