CULTURE: DARRYL W BULLOCK
In case Santa fails to empty his sack for you this Christmas, Q&C’s culture vulture Darryl is here with some alternative festive gifts and yuletide events for you to treat yourself or loved ones with.
Ho! Ho! Ho! A merry winterville and a cool Yule to you all. Grab your winter togs (a Tardis might help too), for we’re off to centuries past to spend the festive season. The National Trust-run house and gardens at Stourhead in Wiltshire are open for Christmas, with 18 and 19th Century-themed festive decorations throughout.
For the first time the Saloon in the house is also open, including a tree decorated in the theme of the Grand Tour. Other rooms have been adorned by NT volunteers, handcrafting the decorations for visitors to enjoy and find inspiration for their own homes. New willow sculptures can be found around the garden: the team at Stourhead have worked with sculptor Woody Fox to create a double headed eagle, the Hoare family’s emblem, as well as a stag and other animals.
With a roaring log fire, gorgeously decorated trees and scented foliage displays from the estate, the Christmas spirit is also felt outside, with lights guiding you up to the house. One thing not to be missed this year is the decorated stable yard with a life-size sleigh (the perfect selfie spot), and a pop up shop open at weekends.
The Christmas House will be open every day until Sunday 23 December. Opening hours are from 11am to 3.30pm (last entry to the house at 3pm). Normal admission applies. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/southwest
Dyrham Park, near Bath, is also hosting a Christmas extravaganza, only this time with a 17th-Century flavour. A world away from Christmas trees, baubles, tinsel and Santa Claus, carefully crafted festive foliage picked from the garden and parkland will be on display throughout the house and courtyard; a giant swag will be woven through the balustrade outside the house entrance, and wreaths will be on display around the property. Masses of dried flowers including hydrangea and statice (or sea lavender) will bring natural colour to the decorations, and orange, cinnamon, pine and lavender scents will permeate the air.
For families there is a trail through the site to track down The Lord of Misrule, a mischievous elf-type character who will be hiding in various spots around Dyrham Park. Children's craft activities are taking place each weekend, and costumed storytellers will roam the house and grounds to share festive facts and tales, and discuss the history of Dyrham. There will be a self-led poetry trail through the Terraces, and local choirs will be singing Christmas carols on Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes in St Peter’s Church, which adjoins Dyrham Park.
A weekend Frost Fayre takes place in the stables on 15 and 16 December, when you can pick up some Christmas produce and gifts from local craftspeople and suppliers, and on 27 and 28 December the bZents theatre company will perform some pop-up pantomime throughout the day in the house, courtyard and garden. The festive season will culminate in a noisy celebration of wassailing on Sunday 6 January (11am-2pm), when visitors are invited to accompany the live music by bashing pots and pans in a traditional celebration to encourage the pear harvest.
Photo above: Hydrangea wreath from 2017 at Dyrham Park, National Trust images - Emma Aldred
More information is available at: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/DyrhamPark
Looking for a last-minute gift? I have a couple of stocking fillers to recommend to you.
Out now is Hitler’s Hollywood, and while that might not sound like the ideal Christmas gift to give to someone you love, this absolutely fascinating documentary tells the story of cinema in Germany during the 30s and 40s, with amazing footage that even the biggest cinema buff will have not seen before. The period between 1933-1945 is poorly documented, as are the lives of the actors, writers and directors who made these amazing films. Detailed and mesmerising, if you know someone who is interested in the history of film then they will love this.
Out now as an Ebook, with the paperback edition to follow at the beginning of February, Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) is a new novel aimed at young LGBTQ adults, but that will also be enjoyed by more mature audiences. I know that when I was coming out I would have loved to have been able to pick up a book that did not ignore or demonise gay sex, and I’m sure that you can think of someone who will love this book. It had me hooked with the opening line: “My reputation for sluttiness is only partially deserved.” Could be the story of my life!
There have been other young adult books that have brought gay relationships out of the closet, but Jack of Hearts brings gay sex to the forefront in a gloriously progressive, sex positive, celebratory and unashamedly queer way. Author L.C. Rosen is already causing a stir with a regular advice column for Attitude magazine, written in the voice of Jack, and the book’s frankness and willingness to depict queer sex with unflinchingly honesty for a teen audience will no doubt prove controversial for some readers.
Sadly not out in time for Christmas, but if you have any gift tokens you could not find a better way to spend them than on a couple of cinema classics, The Boys In The Band and, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
Intended as the follow up to the Psychobiddy classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Robert Aldrich’s brooding and tense Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte stars Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland - in the role originally written for Joan Crawford.
Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) has been closeted in her mansion since the grisly murder of her married lover many years earlier. When the county wants to tear down the house to build a highway, the spinster’s relatives and friends appear to rally behind her, but each slowly preys on her mind until the gruesome rumours of the last 40 years appear to be coming true. A dark and twisted psychological thriller from one of Hollywood’s most idiosyncratic filmmakers, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte will be available for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK from 21 January 2019.
Out the same day is ground-breaking queer cinema classic The Boys In The Band, one of director William Friedkin’s earliest works. The film was hugely controversial on its original release, dividing the gay community in the US and beyond, but is rightly famed for its caustic wit, savage putdowns and many expletives (it was the first mainstream movie to use the C-word!) The film follows a group of gay men celebrating a friend’s birthday and, as the drink flows, the evening descends into vicious backbiting and some deep, dark truths.
Savage and hysterically bitchy, this is not a film about coming out: the characters in this movie are already out, open and full of confidence. Mart Crowley adapted his own play, creating a script full of acerbic speeches and cutting one liners for his actors. The original stage cast, including Kenneth Nelson, Peter White and Leonard Frey, all starred in the film, one that Friedkin rates as “one of the few films I've made that I can still watch”.
The Boys in the Band Special Edition Blu-ray comes complete with a raft of extras, including an exclusive, brand new interview with Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard, commentary from Friedkin and Crowley, as well as features looking at the film, the play it was based on and its cultural impact in the half century since it first caused controversy.
Now, if you’re going to be partying over the next few weeks you’re going to want to look your best. Aldwyn & Sons, the UK’s first and only Gentleman’s pedicure room, has just opened its doors to a ‘speakeasy’ style room at acclaimed Sharps Barber & Shop on 9 Windmill Street, London. The unique space will offer a menu of manicure and pedicure treatments, totally tailored for the modern man.
Aldwyn & Sons is an environment for the quintessentially British Gentleman and seeks to change men’s attitudes towards foot care and the way it is provided. “Men’s grooming, particularly the feet, is often overlooked and can have a significant impact on a man’s overall wellbeing,” says founder Aldwyn Boscawen. “It was in searching for somewhere to have a pedicure myself that a gap in the market was spotted – a nail salon really wasn’t for me and there was little else on the market to address my unsightly, coarse and at times uncomfortable feet. In contemporary times, foot care has never been accessible for gentlemen in a bespoke environment and tailored to their comfort… until now!”
Aldwyn & Sons’ bespoke menu of treatments – with manicures priced from £30 and pedicures from £40 – includes the signature, 45-minute ‘Modern Footman’, encompassing a pedicure of nail and cuticle work, foot filing, exfoliation and moisturising, followed by a foot massage. Full treatment menus can be found at www.aldwynsons.co.uk
Looking forward into the New Year, there are a couple of live events coming up which you should know about.
Coming to Manchester in February, Still Doin’ It Live marks the 20-year anniversary of the cult TV show Queer as Folk, and will see performances of the some of the greatest gay anthems featured in the series by Manchester Camerata’s 28-piece orchestra and guest singers including Steps’ (and Strictly’s) Faye Tozer and original soundtrack artists. Says Faye: “Manchester has always been a place I have loved visiting, especially when on tour with Steps; the gay audiences have stuck with us for all these years, so this is my personal thank you by performing at this amazing anniversary show.”
Tickets for Still Doin’ It Live are on sale now. The show takes place on Friday 22 February 2019, at the Manchester Albert Hall.
For four nights only, the 2019 40 Years Of Disco tour brings together a slew of disco legends for a unique arena concert, including such legendary acts as the Village People, The Trammps, Imagination featuring Leee John, The Gibson Brothers, The Three Degrees, The Real Thing and Odyssey.