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Exhibitions & Galleries

Phyllis Oberman

 By Phyllis Oberman, Art Aficionado


Christmas themes feature at museums, galleries, stately homes, high streets and shops around Britain. Here are a few artistic highlights worth considering for a visit.

What The Dickens!

At Chatsworth in Derbyshire until 7th January, 2018 this stately home is transformed into a vision of scenes and characters from Dickens's most famous novels like A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist.

Mark Dunn as Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist at Chatsworth

       Mark Dunn as Bill Sikes from
        Oliver Twist at Chatsworth

The Victorian Christmas scene is shown not just in the colourful décor in the public rooms, but visitors will find actors in period costumes playing well-known Dickens characters as Scrooge, Fagin and many more with sound and light effects, projections and props.

There will also be a Christmas market with over 100 stalls until 5th December.

For further details and entry prices visit 

The Geffrye Museum in Hoxton, London, is decorating its period living rooms to show how they might have looked at Christmas time.

The museum has eleven period rooms from 1600 to the present day that are festooned with decorations, lighting, music and greenery.

Christmas Past at Geffrye Museum

   Christmas Past, Geffrye Museum
Photograph by Marc Schlossmann

Christmas Past: 400 Years of Seasonal Traditions in English Homes continues until 7th January 2018. Entrance is free.

There are many special events including Christmas fairs and evening carol concerts, some of which require paid tickets.

A drawing room in 1830 by Chris Riley

           A drawing room in 1830
                     by Chris Riley

For further information please visit the website at 

Castle Howard near York has seasonal celebrations until 23rd December called Angels on High that takes inspiration from paintings, architecture and stained glass within the house.

Charlotte Lloyd Webber, producer of 'Angels on High', puts a cherub in place at Castle Howard

  Charlotte Lloyd Webber, producer
  of 'Angels on High', puts a cherub
          in place at Castle Howard

Twenty six spaces are decorated with angelic themes and the Gallery of Angels has golden angels flying the length of the 45-metre hall. An indoor Christmas market is in The Old Stables.

There are more colourful events including Twilight visits with twinkling lights, candles, reindeers and live music.

For full details and prices visit the website at 

Look out for Stratford-on-Avon's new traditional Victorian Christmas Market from the 8th to 10th December in the centre of the town. There will be 150 stalls plus choirs, dancers, a Victorian carousel and barrel organ music.

Moomin Creator Revealed

Tove Jansson, Self Portrait

         Tove Jansson, Self Portrait

The Finnish artist/illustrator of the famed Moomin children's books Tove Jansson (1914 – 2001) always considered herself primarily as a painter despite the international fame of her Moomin character and books that also brought her great fortune.

Moomin by Tove Jansson

          Moomin by Tove Jansson

Dulwich Picture Gallery now presents the first major retrospective of Jansson's work showing 150 of her creations including self portraits, surrealistic paintings, abstract works, cartoons and book jacket designs as well as her stories and illustrations for the Moomin books.

Illustration for Tove Jansson's book 'Comet in Moominland'

     Illustration for Tove Jansson's
       book 'Comet in Moominland'

A large selection come from the Moomin Museum in Tampere, Finland. The exhibition continues until 28th January, 2018.

For full details about the exhibition including tickets for Senior Citizens visit the website at  

Marking The Revolution

Exhibitions, radio and TV programmes, talks and concerts around Britain have marked 100 years since the 1917 Russian Revolution. Probably the last of the major events is Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture, 1905-55 at London's Tate Modern. It begins at the time of the first (unsuccessful) revolution against The Tsar in 1905 but the main displays cover the period from 1917 to 1955.

This huge show consists mostly of works from the collection of the late David King, designer, collector and historian who spent many years tracking down Russian and Soviet paintings, sculptures, posters, photographs, books, pamphlets and banners and more associated with the Revolution.

Emancipated Woman: Build Socialism: by Adolph Strakhov

         Emancipated Woman: Build
   Socialism: by Adolph Strakhov,
          1926, from The David King
                Collection at Tate

After the 1917 Revolution artists and designers were enlisted to use their talents to further the state's objectives and communicate with the public especially massive peasant population who were largely illiterate. One of the most innovative propaganda tools was the 'agit prop' trains that travelled round the vast country.

The trains were decorated on the outside with brightly-coloured revolutionary murals and inside there were displays of posters and books, speakers who gave talks and even a printing press to produce leaflets tailored to the local population.

When Stalin took over following the death of Lenin in January 1924, the situation in Russia began to change quite quickly. Creative artists from all sectors had to conform to the party line or pay the price.

The concluding section of the show includes work by artists commemorating the terrible purges of the 1930's, and also fascinating examples of the way photographs used for posters and other propaganda were manipulated to remove top people who had been consigned to the gulags or killed.

The exhibition continues until 18th February, 2018 and full details of ticket prices (including concessions), talks and tours can be found at
Art In Brief

Booking has opened for the blockbuster exhibition China's First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors at Liverpool's World Museum from 9th February, 2018 to 28th October, 2018.  

Armoured Infantryman © Ziyu Qui

 Armoured Infantryman © Ziyu Qui

For further details about the exhibition visit

Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums run popular 45-minute lunchtime concerts at Aberdeen's Citadel with free entry.

There are short introductory talks before some of the concerts.

For full details visit  

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:

Please mark your email favourite art gallery and museum for Phyllis Oberman's column.

Retirement & Hobbies

Volunteer Your Friendship this Winter

Volunteer your friendship this Winter

     Join TV Licensing and Volunteering
  Matters for a weekly telly appointment

As winter approaches, TV Licensing and Volunteering Matters are encouraging people to volunteer their time by joining a social group, mentor programme, or sparing an hour each week to form a friendship over a shared interest.

Jason Hill, spokesperson for TV Licensing says, “Over 75s consume more TV each day than any other age group, so the weekly TV schedule can provide a great opportunity for volunteers to share their favourite regular programme in the company of an older person, particularly as winter draws in and great TV seasons begin. Volunteering Matters can help by matching up people wanting to help another person tackle loneliness and social isolation.

“Anyone aged 75 can claim a free TV Licence for their main address and over 4 million people across the UK, already enjoy the benefits of the concession.”

Oonagh Aitken, Volunteering Matters Chief Executive  explains, “There are many different types of befriending, from group activities to chatting over the phone. In many cases volunteers tell us that television can be a great conversation starter and a way of finding common interests between generations.

“The fact that TV Licenses are free for people over 75 is a great help to many. Applying for one is easy to do and TV Licensing can help you apply over the phone, cutting down on paperwork.

“Throughout the UK, increasing numbers of older people are facing loneliness but this isn't inevitable. Volunteering your time and befriending really can improve the quality of life for older people and strengthen our communities.”

TV Licensing works with around 500 organisations across the UK to ensure those entitled to a concession knows how to apply for it

TV Licensing works with around 500 organisations across the UK to ensure those entitled to a concession knows how to apply for it. Anyone 75 or older can apply for a TV Licence online at or call 0300 790 6073 for help with the application.

The free licence is not granted automatically so anybody who becomes eligible needs to make sure they apply. If you live with someone aged over 75, their free licence will cover all viewing in the property, meaning family and live-in carers could also benefit from the concession.

Case study – Audrey and Mouyra

Audrey and Mouyra

Audrey Biscotti, 53, from Alloa, is a volunteer befriender with
Volunteering Matters. She was matched with Mouyra Stirling, 88 also from Alloa, earlier this year and the pair quickly bonded realising their shared love of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Audrey explains, “I decided to become a volunteer befriender because I want to give something back and I knew there was someone out there in need of someone to take time, to just chat, share a coffee or to take them out to events or run errands. Mouyra and I quickly hit it off and in our first meeting when we discovered a shared love of Strictly.

Audrey and Mouyra

“Mouyra is an expert ballroom dancer so she shows me the moves and now because of her I know what a Fleckerl* is! We are both avid fans of Strictly Come Dancing, and have lots to talk about as we often meet on a Saturday before the big show. Mouyra is also not so secretly in love with Brendan Cole!

“We often meet to go for a coffee or just to chat. If you ask me why I enjoy it, well I have met a lovely lady who has lots of stories to tell of a time I don't know. I enjoy her company and we go to places I would never normally be, last week we were at a country dancing afternoon tea where she met old friends.

Audrey and Mouyra

“Mouyra enjoys the company and the conversation and the chance to go somewhere new if she wants to, all of that along with the glitter and glam of our favourite programme. I think befriending can be a real benefit to both befriendee and volunteer alike and I’m glad I decided to get involved.”

* And just so you know too - a Fleckerl is a Viennese Waltz dance step !

Paying for a TV Licence

TV Licensing aims to make it as easy as possible for people to buy a TV Licence, which is why there are many different ways to pay

1. Online – people are able to pay online at   by Direct Debit or with a debit or credit card

2. Direct Debit - monthly, quarterly or annual Direct Debit payment schemes are available and can be set up online at 

3. Over-the-counter – people can pay at any of over 28,000 PayPoint outlets across the country or by cash or credit/debit card.

4. Debit or credit card over the phone - this facility accepts payment from a range of debit cards including Maestro, Delta and Connect

5. By post – send a cheque made payable to TV Licensing to: TV Licensing, Darlington, DL98 1TL

Find out more about TV Licensing

To find out more about paying in weekly instalments over the counter, online, by SMS or by phone on the cash payment plan, call 0300 790 6078 or visit

Follow us on Twitter at @TVLicensingNews for updates on the latest news and local advice from our community relations teams, or view our YouTube channel at

For details of volunteering opportunities with older people visit


   Surprising Things
      that can Affect
    your Wi-Fi Speed

Suprising things can affect your Wi-Fi Speed

Post Office Telecoms research finds that many people are not aware of the simple mistakes they may be making which could be negatively affecting their internet speed. For example, did you know that placing your Wi-Fi router by the TV or next to an electrical appliance can lead to significant signal interference?

28% those surveyed that have with a main Wi-Fi router (28%) have done just this, and a further 24% have their router by a window, shared wall or at the top of the house, all of which can lead to notable signal interference.

Households are also suffering in silence when it comes to fixing internet connection problems with as many as two in five (40%)  users, who have had a problem with their connection, admitting they do nothing to try and resolve it. On the other end of the scale, 12% of respondents have even gone as far as buying new devices such as laptops or mobile phones, or getting rid of old ones, in a bid to improve their home broadband speed.

Meredith Sharples, Managing Director, Post Office Telecoms says, “We are increasingly reliant on the internet for so many aspects of our lives and it’s therefore so important that we can trust in the reliability of our service. However 40% of the public told us they suffer from a slow internet connection, have had their connection drop at random times (38%) and experience a poor Wi-Fi connection in certain rooms (22%). We also learnt that many are not aware of the simple steps they can take to ensure their home is optimized to receive the best broadband connections possible.”

Post Office Wi-Fi Squad experts have developed some Top Tips to help people understand what they can do to get the best internet connection possible in their home.

Christmas lights can interfere with your Wi-Fi signal

1. Router relocation – make sure your router is kept away from windows, thick walls and electrical devices – even baby monitors, fish tanks and Christmas lights can interfere with your signal!

2. Master your connection – ensure your router is plugged into your master socket (usually found where the phone line enters the house) and not an extension. This will reduce the chance of your home wiring affecting the internet speed.

3. Protect your privacy – if you don’t have password protection anyone could use your Wi-Fi and slow your connection down.

4. Get the latest browser – The latest version of internet browser can also improve your download speed.

5. Find the speed you need – Understand what speed you need with if you have a big household with members who stream, download and game, especially in the evenings, you may just need higher speed. Use Post Office Telecom’s
Speed Quiz to find out what speed you need

   Christmas at Kew 

Christmas at Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew will transform into an enchanted wonderland as the much anticipated Christmas at Kew returns. After the staggering success of the last four years, Kew has once again teamed up with entertainment promoter Raymond Gubbay Ltd to create a brand new illuminated trail, featuring over 1 million twinkling lights.

As they embark on the trail, visitors can expect a magical world that will fill hearts with seasonal cheer. The festive adventure will begin with a path lit by hundreds of illuminated globes winding through glittering trees festooned with silvery shards of light, snowflakes and stars. Children and adults will delight at the sight of an enormous glowing Sledge Tree constructed from over 360 wooden Santa’s sledges.

As they continue, families will be greeted by the enthralling sound of a chorus of Singing Trees as they head towards one of Kew’s most stunning attractions, its glistening lake. Here, visitors will witness an ethereal spectacle of light and sound with the lake’s two islands slowly coming to life as angelic voices call and respond across the water. As they stroll over the famous ‘Sackler Crossing’ bridge, transformed through animated light, visitors will also marvel at the beauty of the sparkling reflections shimmering just beneath the water’s surface.

The trail will feature many new installations by a range of artists. One such installation will come for the first time from Between Art and Technology (BAT) Studio, who’ll be creating an ephemeral ultraviolet walkway of thousands of continuously moving bubbles. Founded by architects David Di Duca and Jonty Craig, BAT Studio have previously worked on projects for The Horniman Museum and The Science Museum.

Elsewhere, visitors will encounter clusters of trees wrapped in ever-changing ribbons of light, and a majestic weeping beech tree positively dripping with sparkling lights. Visitors will get the chance to warm up in the heat of the Fire Garden which will this year form a striking corridor of intricate pulsing fire sculptures and rotating lantern-lit Christmas trees. An installation from French art studio TILT, will form an enchanted promenade of hundreds of huge glowing peonies, giant grasses and coloured reeds.

Along the trail, visitors will be greeted by the scent of roasted chestnuts, mulled cider and other tasty offerings, while kids will be thrilled at the chance to toast their own marshmallows. Youngsters will delight in spotting Santa and his elves performing along the trail, and White Peaks will 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 at

 Festive Celebrations
       at Hever Castle

Experience the interactive Twelve Days of Christmas at Hever Castle and Gardens

Visitors to Hever Castle and Gardens will be able to experience an interactive Twelve Days of Christmas trail as part of the attraction’s festive offering.

The magical trail winds around the stunning grounds with visitors meeting special guests along the way and getting the chance to see the popular Christmas carol brought to life.

Christmas carols are brought to life at Hever Castle and Gardens

Write messages of love and place them on the Two Turtle Doves trellis, walk through the Five Gold Rings tunnel, count the number of eggs and meet one of the geese
* as part of the Six Geese a Laying verse, help to milk a ‘cow’ with the Eight Maids a Milking and play musical instruments as part of the 11 Pipers Piping and 12 Drummers Drumming.

* This is on selected dates, please see the website at for details.

The Castle will be adorned with beautiful decorations and welcoming log fires, embracing the theme of The History of Christmas Carols

The Castle will be adorned with beautiful decorations and welcoming log fires, embracing the theme of The History of Christmas Carols. Feel a sprinkling of snow as you enter the Castle, hear your favourite seasonal songs ringing around the rooms, take in the twinkling lights of the decorated trees and admire the floral displays including holly, ivy and mistletoe.

Children can also join a craft workshop to make an angel,
* ride the carousel, take part in the coconut shy or hook a duck (£1 a go) and hug a husky and take your photo as a memento.*

Join a craft workshop at Hever Castle

* There is a suggested donation for charity, see website at  for details.

Young visitors who have not booked to visit Father Christmas in his Grotto may get the chance to meet him in drop in sessions in the Toy Workshop (16th, 17
th, 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 and can only be purchased in the grounds on the day.

Visit Father Christmas in his Grotto at Hever Castle

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 mulled wine.

For further information about Christmas activities and prices


   Catch The Train
 to Christmas Town

Catch The Train to Christmas Town

      A new magical family experience
            launches this festive season

The team behind the original THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride are returning to the UK this Christmas with a brand new Christmas train ride experience – The Train to Christmas Town.

Centring around the beloved children’s book The Train to Christmas Town; the family friendly train ride recreates the story of Janice and her brother on their annual ride to Christmas Town. Onboard passengers will meet a host of interactive characters including the ticket punching train conductor, Bumblebee the polar bear and Wabash the squirrel as well as a troupe of cheeky dancing elves who entertain as they serve up delicious cookies and hot cups of cocoa to all on board.

Along with storytelling and Christmas carolling; passengers will also get to meet a very special guest when the train stops at the North Pole at Christmas Town where Santa Claus is waiting to climb on board to meet the children and hand them a special gift.

Catch The Train to Christmas Town

The 70-minute Christmas spectacle, expertly designed to bring the spirit of Christmas to the whole family, will operate from two UK locations this year - Dartmoor Railway in Okehampton in Devon and Weardale Railway in Co. Durham.

The Dartmoor Railway train rides run from the 1st December through to the 28th December and the Weardale Railway train rides run from the 18th November through to the 30th December. Tickets start at £19.00 with standard and premium class tickets available.

Creating memories to cherish for a lifetime at the most wonderful time of the year, you can find more detail on The Train to Christmas Town train rides here

Or call 08000 232383


Experience a Magical
  Victorian Christmas
         at Blists Hill

Experience at Magical Victorian Christmas at Blists Hill

Travel back over 100 years to experience the magic of a traditional Victorian Christmas at Blists Hill Victorian Town, near Ironbridge, Shropshire over the two Festive Weekends of 9th – 10th and 16th – 17th December.

Soak up the Yuletide atmosphere with seasonal entertainment and activities. Watch as the townsfolk busily make preparations for Christmas, 1800s style, listen to brass bands, tour the Town on a horse-drawn cart, meet Father Christmas and his reindeer and enjoy delicious festive food and drink. A friendly welcome awaits as you step in from the cold and warm up by the fireside in the traditionally decorated shops and cosy cottages.

Experience a magical Victorian Christmas at Blists Hill Victorian Town

A perfect Victorian ‘Christmas card scene’, with a stunningly decorated Christmas tree, will be the centrepiece in the Goods Shed, where youngsters can write a letter to Father Christmas and leave a note on the Wishing Tree.

A visit is also a great excuse to call in to the shops around the Town, where you will find some unusual Christmas gifts like traditionally made cast-iron paperweights and doorstops, handmade plaster decorations, perfumed soaps, hand printed gift wrap, traditional sweets and Victorian style Christmas cards.

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, £13.75 for 60 plus, £11.85 for children 5 - 16 years. A special Christmas Family Ticket (2+2) is available at £55 and under 5s are free.

A visit to Father Christmas is £3.50 extra per child including a gift to take home. Print-at-home tickets can be purchased online 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 Ticket when paying on arrival.

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

For further information, call the Ironbridge Tourist Information Centre on 01952 433 424.

Or visit


 Magical Wonderland
      at Birmingham
  Botanical Gardens

Magical Wonderland at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

A spectacular Christmas trail at The Birmingham Botanical Gardens transforms the gardens into a magical illuminated wonderland. The jewel-coloured trail leads visitors through the Gardens, highlighting the rich Victorian history and heritage trees, all with the magical entertainment of the festive season.

The trail weaves across the landscape, telling little stories and encouraging visitors to interact with the seasonal themes. Installations that visitors will experience include illuminated scenes bringing to life The Twelve Days of Christmas; a tunnel of lights; a mistletoe moment, a scented fire garden and much more.

Visitors will also see an incredible Singing Tree. This magnificent coppice tree has five trunks! Using the latest technology this single coppice will appear to magically sing as visitors wander past. Inspiration will also be drawn from other festive pieces including Silent Night, O Holy Night and The Holly and the Ivy.

Leading the creative, design and implementation is Zoe Bottrell, who is responsible for the creative concepts enjoyed at the popular Christmas at Kew, whose trail has had over one million festive visitors. The much-loved Botanical Gardens, with four Glasshouses, a Victorian park and bandstand, has provided horticultural inspiration for the Creative Designer. Zoe plans to have every rib of the beautiful aviary aglow with programmable lights, whilst the entire lawn will be washed with fire-like illumination. This installation alone will feature over 60,000 individual lights. It will take the team over five days to rig the lighting using specialist riggers.

She says, “The Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, are an enticing canvas to create a Christmas story, featuring a beautiful aviary, to provide inspiration and illumination opportunities.”

Working in a heritage and botanical landscape creates its own challenges. From the vast amount of infrastructure, to getting hundreds of visitors into gardens whilst keeping them pristine in the midst of winter. The trail has been specially designed for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

Discover a new Christmas light trail set within the beautiful landscape of The Botanic Gardens, created for all the family to enjoy.

Admission: Advance Non-Member Adult from £14.00 - £16.00, Child from £8.00 - £10.00 Advance Family Ticket from £40.00 - £48.00.

For further information visit the website at