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What’s On in May

Avoid FOMO: book your tix for theatre, art, music, comedy, circus, drive-ins and festivals in Somerset, Dorset and nearby – right now. #HelloFreedom!

Don’t faint, there’s stuff * actually happening* again in and around Somerset and Dorset. Read on for the Muddy pick of What’s On in May. We’ll be adding to this feature as more events are announced, so watch this space.

OUTSIDE: National Garden Scheme’s Open Gardens, throughout Somerset & Dorset, from Sat 1 May

East Lambrook Manor Gardens, near South Petherton in Somerset

Have a nosey around 50 of the prettiest gardens across in Somerset and Dorset, some of which are only open to the public one or two days a year, as part of this national scheme. Sometimes you can buy plants and a cuppa. Booking is usually essential. Two birds with one stone at East Lambrook Manor Gardens (above): gorgeous gardens and Petal Poise, an exhibition of larger than life floral oil paintings by Dorset-based artist Helen Simpson running until the end of the month.

FOOD: Eat:Festivals, Castle Cary Sat 1 May, Taunton Sat 8 May, Clevedon Sat 15 May, Yeovil Sat 22 May, Burnham-on-Sea Sat 29 May

The farmer’s market-style food festivals are a go go this May, bringing together some of the very best West Country food and drink producers and artisan makers for your edification, delight and prandial satisfaction.  Each Saturday throughout the month, from 10am to 4pm, in a different Somerset town centre. Work your way around them all?

ART: Henry Taylor, Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton, until Sun 6 June

Henry Taylor. Portrait of my cousin GF: Dana Gallegos 2020. Acrylic on canvas. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen

Californian artist Henry Taylor paints on all sorts of surfaces, including empty cigarette packs, as well as stretched canvas and people figure prominently (though he rejects the label of portraitist). His work ranges from members of the black community to symbolic objects representative of historical struggle, spanning the breadth of the human condition.

DRIVE-IN: The Alfresco Theatre, Warleigh Lodge Farm, Bathford, Bath Thurs 6 – Sun 9 May

From the people who brought you Pub in the Park and Drive & Dine Theatre, comes The Alfresco Theatre Drive-in. Choose nosh from five top chefs – Tom Kerridge, Rick Stein, Jason Atherton, Atul Kochhar and Paul Ainsworth – with live entertainment. Mark Watson’s Carpool Comedy Club with Angela Barnes & Zoe Lyons (Fri 7 May) and The Gruffalo Live on stage (Sun 9 May); movies Jo Jo Rabbit (Thurs 6 May), Grease (Sat 8 May), B, The Greatest Showman (Sat 8 May), Jurassic Park (Sun 9 May) and Bohemian Rhapsody (Sun 9 May).

OUTSIDE: The Garden Festival, Sculpture by the Lakes, Pallington, near Dorchester, Weds 12 – Sun 16 May

Around 30 exhibitors selling everything from plants to tools to garden furniture, with expert talks and tours of the gardens, a great cafe and the chance to wander around 200 sculptures by some of the UK’s top sculptors.

CARS: Williams F1 – The Drivers and the Driven, Haynes International Motor Museum, Sparkford, near Yeovil, Mon 17 May – Sun 24 Oct

As well as housing one of the world’s best collections of cars and other vehicles, Haynes International Motor Museum reopens its doors today with a new exhibition exploring the world of Formula 1 and Williams (second only to Ferrari in terms of F1 stats). Admire the car design on machines like Nigel Mansell’s FW14 or ‘Red 5; test your knowledge of engine sounds (brrrm, brrrm); discover the challenges faced by F1 drivers; put yourself in the (virtual) driver’s point of view; and find out about modern safety engineering through the remains of Pastor Maldonado’s FW35 F1 car, which dramatically crashed during the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix). Great cafe, too.

ART: Landscape Portrait: Now and Then, Hestercombe Gallery, near Taunton, Mon 17 May – Sun 25 July

what's on in may
Image: Susan Derges, The Observer and the Observed, 1992, Gelatin silver print © the artist

Works by art world big guns Andy Warhol, Derek Jarman, Claudette Johnson, Gilbert and George alongside new commissions and local historic pieces in Hestercombe’s art gallery, named by The Guardian as one of the best rural art galleries in the UK.

FESTIVAL: The Bath Festival live, Mon 17 – Mon 24 May, online events, from Fri 28 May

what's on in May

The festival celebrating the best in music and books in a beautiful city, live and online. Highlights include comedian Tez Ilyas; author of Breathtaking, Dr Rachel Clarke; entertainer Mel Giedroyc; from the super talented musical family Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason; and skincare queen and beauty blogger Caroline Hirons. See the full line up.

ART: Caneletto: Painting Venice, Holburne Museum, Bath, Mon 17 May – Sun 5 Sept

Grand Canal looking East from Palazzo Bembo to Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi, Canaletto, 1733–36 © From the Woburn Abbey Collection

Take a grand tour around these 23 paintings of Venice from the private collection at Woburn Abbey, painted for the 4th Duke of Bedford between 1733–36, when Caneletto was at the pinnacle of his career.

FASHION: Shoephoria! Fashion Museum, Bath, from Tues 18 May

An incredible collection of over 350 pairs of shoes from Noel Coward’s monogrammed velvet slippers to Kanye West-designed Yeezy trainers, via dancing shoes worn by Margot Fonteyn and Nicola Adams and 36 pairs of Malono Blahniks (eat your heart out Carrie Bradshaw).

PHOTOGRAPHY: Bristol Photo Festival, various locations, Tues 18 May – Mon 2 Jan 2022

Accra, 1970. A shop assistant at the Sick-Hagemeyer store ©James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière. On display at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

‘A Sense of Place’ is the theme for this new and innovative biennial year-long festival celebrating the power and diversity of photography. There are works by local and international photographers on display across the city, including the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and the Martin Parr Foundation.

OUTSIDE: Bridgerton Walking Tours, around Bath, various dates from Weds 19 May

what's on in May

You won’t meet Regé-Jean Page but you will visit all the key Bridgerton filming locations in Bath, including the grand homes of the Featheringtons and scheming Lady Danbury, the gossip-filled Modiste dress makers and the magnificent Assembly Rooms, used for some of Bridgerton’s lavish ballroom scenes. Tours at 11am and 3pm Wed 19, Thurs 20, Sat 22 and Sun 3 May. At 2pm and 5pm Fri 21 May. Part of the Bath Festival.

ART: Dorset Art Weeks, around Dorset and online, Sat 22 May – Sun 6 June

Frances Hatch – Venue 41 + 101

Meet, view and buy the work of artists and makers around Dorset, online and in person, in one of the largest Open Studio events in the country. Each year around 1000 artists, makers, designers, filmmakers, art centres, galleries and art groups take part. You’ll be able to scan QR codes linking to events and download an app.

COMEDY: Pop up Comedy at the Merlin, ECOS amphitheatre, Frome, Sat 22 May

Stand-up comic and comedy quiz-host Jarred Christmas and uber-cool beatboxer, Hobbit, performed a sell-out run at the most recent Edinburgh Festival. Now they’re in Frome along with Irish funnyman Jarlath Regan and rising comedy star Abi Clarke.

ANTIQUES: Pop up valuation days, The Glebe Gallery, Charlton, near Shaftesbury, Sat 22 – 23 May

Bring your heirlooms and carboot finds along to the Auction Hub experts for a free Antiques Roadshow style expert appraisal and valuation. Plus ‘Drawing on Dorset’ artworks on the walls and tea and cake in the garden. Contact

LIVE THEATRE: Ralph Fiennes in Four Quartets, Theatre Royal Bath, Tues 25 May – Sat 5 June

what's on in May
Photo ©Matt Humphrey

Ralph directing himself in TS Eliot’s famous Four Quartets is the world premier performance headlining the re-opening of the Theatre Royal. The four interwoven meditations on time, faith, and the quest for spiritual enlightenment, was the poet’s masterwork, with the second poem ‘East Coker’, named after the Somerset village from where Eliot’s ancestors emigrated in the 17th century and where Eliot himself is buried. Tickets going fast so book now.

LIVE SCREENING: Touching the Void, Bristol Old Vic, Weds 26 – Sat 29 May

what's on in may
Josh Williams (Joe), Angus Yellowlees (Simon). Photo Michael Wharley

One man clinging to the freezing mountainside; the other, injured, hanging from a rope beneath him. Experience the adrenaline-fuelled 5-star hit from every heart-stopping angle, alongside the audience in the theatre, in this production combining the intimacy of live performance with the tech power of digital theatre. Ooh, er….

SPECTACLE: Circus of Horrors, Lighthouse Poole, Fri 28 May

what's on in May

From Britain’s Got Talent to West End and worldwide hit, the bizarre circus combining circus acts, horror, black comedy and rock ‘n’ roll, comes to Dorset.

MUSIC: Jazz Jurassica, Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis, Fri 28 – Mon 31 May

what's on in may

Four days of jazz, blues, Latin, soul and funk inside and outside the seafront venue, including the 17-piece big band Dockside Latin Orchestra, FB Pocket Orchestra, Saturday’s Blues Bender, Georgia van Etten, Martin Harely, Jazz Vocalist of the Year Zoe Gilby, blues and jazz pianist Dom Pipkin and more. See the full programme here.

FESTIVAL: Porthilly Spirit, near Rock, Cornwall, Fri 28 – Sun 30 May

what's on in May

This new Cornish gathering on a farm on the north coast near Rock is bijou, intimate, with music and terrific food and drink. Set across 30 acres, Porthilly Spirit is small in scale but a real chance to feast, to learn and listen, to reconnect and experience. Food from some of Cornwall’s best; sunrise yoga, workshops, an eclectic music line up and loads of stuff for kids. Read more.

DRIVE-IN: Flix Drive-in, Bournemouth Airport Events Field, Christchurch. from Fri 28 May – Sun 6 June

what's on in May

Park up and tune in for new releases Godzilla vs. Kong, Tom & Jerry and The Little Things; animated and live-action, family-friendly blockbusters, Scoob, Trolls World Tour and The Witches; sing-along, feel-good flicks Hairspray, Kinky Boots and The Greatest Showman. Food available.

The Shepton Flea, Bath & West Showground, Shepton Mallet, Sun 31 May

The gi-normous junk/vintage/antiques market – furniture, clothes, garden statuary, crafts, art, jewellery, books, toys, etc (and very handily onsite banking so you won’t run out of cash) – is back. 9.3am-4pm. £5.

Find more ideas here

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