Holidays

The Observer critics’ guide to the summer holidays | Culture

Kitty Empire

Pop
Beyond the boutique tag, Houghton festival in Norfolk (10-13 August) specialises in high-end electronic music, from minimal techno to reggae. Sensitively curated by Craig Richards, artist-cum-Fabric DJ, it boasts a cogent bill – Ricardo Villalobos headlines, Nicolas Jaar and Floating Points promise lengthy DJ sets – and an atmospheric lakeside setting with an abandoned warehouse for those old-skool rave vibes. The festival boasts proper art, too, with works by James Turrell, Richard Long and Rachel Whiteread on the bill.

Do Robin Harford’s foraging courses. Harford is one of the dons of wild food. Get on his mailing list to snap up a place on a course – such as edible seaweeds in Devon – which book up instantly.

Watch Call This Number’s guerrilla live music TV, broadcast online but never archived. Sporadic sessions are announced via Twitter and Instagram (@callthis_number). The gatekeepers are Jeannette Lee (co-owner of Rough Trade Records and formerly of Public Image Ltd), Steve Mackey (ex-Pulp bassist) and Douglas Hart (ex-Jesus and Mary Chain bassist); past guests have included the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Sleaford Mods and Goat Girl.



Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in Point Break. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/20th Century Fox

Simran Hans

Film
A playful riff on the action film, Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 surfing blockbuster Point Break was a box office hit. It starred a young Keanu Reeves and crucially, featured the tagline “It’s 100% pure adrenaline”. But it hasn’t screened (at least, not legally) since 2011 because of complicated rights issues. Now, thanks to detective work by film programmer and writer Sophie Brown – four tireless years of it – London’s Prince Charles Cinema are playing the film on 19 August (from a delicious 35mm print), a special one-off show that, if well-attended, will hopefully spark more screenings across the UK. Wetsuits are optional, but book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Listen SZA’s Ctrl and Waxahatchee’s Out in the Storm, on a loop. Don’t let anyone tell you summer is for Despacito knock-offs and Calvin Harris – it’s the season for sad-girl heatwave jams.

See The Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power exhibition at Tate Modern, on until 22 October, for proof that not all political art is social realism – and a brilliant, naked self-portrait of the painter Barkley L Hendricks.

Lothar Götz’s Vision of a Corner.



Lothar Götz’s Vision of a Corner, at Compton Verney gallery’s The Art of Perception exhibition. Photograph: Hans Schroeder

Laura Cumming

Art
Seurat in the countryside, bright as the sunlight pouring through the Georgian windows, while Bridget Riley dazzles and Josef Albers’s abstractions glow gold in the heat. This is my art summer holiday – a journey to Warwickshire ending in a perfect trip for the eye in Compton Verney’s The Art of Perception. Look out especially for Lothar Götz’s wildly mind-bending Vision of a Corner, before picnicking among op-art magpies in the Capability Brown landscape outside.

Read Longing for the sea, but unable to get there, I’m swimming in Philip Hoare’s new book RisingTideFallingStar (4th Estate £16.99), a lyrical meditation on the ocean that moves in subtle waves from Shakespeare to Shelley, Woolf and Plath; every paragraph holds some unexpected intellectual eddy.

Listen Because I can’t get to America, I’m listening to Bill Callahan’s haunting smoky songs, and (again) to Bonnie Raitt and Gillian Welch, though Haim will undoubtedly be playing on demand in the family car.

Malcolm Gladwell



‘Unifying, surprising theories’: Revisionist History host Malcolm Gladwell. Photograph: Observer/Tim Knox

Miranda Sawyer

Podcasts
Creaky-voiced clever clogs Malcolm Gladwell is a delightful broadcaster: enthusiastic, questioning, funny. In an episode of his excellent podcast, Revisionist History, he says his epitaph would be: “Malcolm Gladwell, rest in peace. His one big idea is that there is one big idea to explain everything.” Gladwell favours unifying, surprising theories that change how we look at everyday life – he wrote The Tipping Point and gave us the 10,000-hours-to-be-an-expert idea – and Revisionist History, now on its second series, sifts through recent events to see if there are any we have missed. Series 1’s highlight was a three-episode mini-series on US education, but all of these podcasts are interesting, and series 2, five episodes in, has covered rich people and golf, a terrorist who had a rethink, and misrepresented black heroes. Each one is only half an hour long, so ideal for dog-walking/the commute/the bath. Gladwell has a way of telling his tales that draws you in, and a mind that flips your own.

See I’m excited about seeing Moonlandingz at the last ever Secret Garden Party festival this weekend; they have two more UK gigs left, if you want to catch them this summer.

Read The KLF appear to be back! On 23 August, their alter egos, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, will publish 2023: A Trilogy (Faber £17.99), a book that might delve into why they burned a million pounds on the same date, 23 years ago. I will be reading it.

Watch a trailer for the River Stage festival 2017.

Susannah Clapp

Theatre
River Stage festival brings alternative theatre to London’s South Bank, outside the beautifully revamped National, every weekend from 28 July to 28 August. Goblin’s Peter and the Wolf, aimed at anyone over the age of four, has puppets, comedy and musical vegetables. In Celluloid History Songs With Live Score, Josephine Oniyama puts on a multimedia performance, which includes historical footage from the North West Film Archive. The tremendous Grace Savage beatboxes. Lipsync1000 Allstars promise ‘WIGS! LASHES! BRAWN & MANLY ATTITUDE!’ In the West End, the hot summer ticket is for Robert Icke’s modern-dress production of Hamlet, which can be seen at the Harold Pinter theatre until 2 September. Threaded through with Dylan songs, it stars the terrific Andrew Scott, convulsed with emotion, and a fervent Juliet Stevenson. Rarely has Shakespeare sounded more urgent and less declamatory. Icke is a mighty theatrical force.

See Chichester’s Pallant House is the most beguiling English art gallery, teeming with mid-20th-century glories. Its John Minton centenary exhibition is on until 1 October.

Read The City Always Wins (Faber £14.99), Omar Robert Hamilton’s fiery first novel, is set in Egypt after the Arab spring. Hamilton was there.

Conductor John Wilson



Conductor John Wilson will lead his own orchestra in a performance of Oklahoma! by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Photograph: Chris Christodoulou

Fiona Maddocks

Classical
At nearly the exact mid-point of the 75-concert BBC Proms season, the world’s biggest summer festival lets its hair down with the first great Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration, a work that changed the history of the American musical and is one of this year’s hottest tickets: Oklahoma! (1943). High-emotion and high-drama, this novel fusion of song, dance and story was called “Broadway’s gift to opera” by an early critic. Hits include O What a Beautiful Mornin’, The Surrey With the Fringe on Top, I Cain’t Say No and loads more. The brilliant John Wilson conducts his own John Wilson Orchestra in a semi-staging by Rachel Kavanaugh, with two performances on the same day, 11 August, at 2pm and 7.30pm. Queue early if “Promming” (standing in the arena or gallery for £6). Seated tickets going fast. Alternatively, for an edgy, off-site concert, Bold Tendencies multistorey car park in Peckham is back at the Proms after last year’s triumph, with Bach, Kate Whitley’s I Am I Say and John Adams’s Harmonielehre, conducted by Christopher Stark. At 12pm and 3pm. Unmissable.

Read Spoils by Brian Van Reet (Jonathan Cape £12.99) is a strong debut novel by a US army veteran compassionately showing both sides of the 2003 Iraq war.

See True to Life: British Realist Painting in the 1920s and 1930s at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh is a chance to see the work of these undervalued artists.

The Serpentine pavilion 2017, designed by Francis Kéré.



The Serpentine pavilion 2017, designed by Francis Kéré. Photograph: Iwan Baan

Rowan Moore

Architecture
It’s an obvious choice, but it’s hard to look past this year’s edition of the Serpentine Gallery’s annual pavilion, by the Berlin-based architect Francis Kéré. It’s a summery, good-natured place that translates without folksiness ideas and attitudes from his native Burkina Faso to Kensington Gardens. It combines a direct appeal – bold forms, strong colours – with thoughtful detail. It’s good in the sun, providing shade and breeze, and it’s good when rain funnels into a cylindrical central waterfall. And while you’re at the Serpentine, you can take in Grayson Perry’s Brexit-themed ceramics and textile weaving, not loved by all the art critics but to the lay observer witty, well crafted, humane and open-minded.

Read Howard Cunnell’s Fathers and Sons (Picador £14.99) is a moving account of the unpredictable forms of parenthood and childhood across three generations.

Visit Go to Hull. You should anyway, as it is a fine and distinctive city, but it’s also embracing its year as City of Culture with good humour and energy.

Watch a trailer for Top of the Lake: China Girl.

Guy Lodge

Streaming
Lounging indoors and binge-streaming TV isn’t the most intuitively summery of activities. But for days when the clouds gather, Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake: China Girl – all six episodes of which hit the BBC iPlayer on 27 July – should keep you in a sweat. For this second superb series of nervy Australian atmospherics, the lake has become an ocean: the body of an Asian prostitute washes up on Bondi Beach, and psychologically raddled detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) is on the case. With the resurgent Nicole Kidman along for the slow ride, it’s coolly compulsive stuff. If you’re after less anxious summer fun, however, head on over to Netflix from 4 August, where Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks and the Wet Hot American Summer gang reconvene for an eight-episode sequel series to the 2001 sex-comedy spoof: expect more honest smut and gleeful retro irony, with the greater maturity promised by the title surely just a bluff.

Listen I was behind the curve on British-Jamaican soul singer Denai Moore, but her gorgeous album We Used to Bloom has been the summer’s musical revelation for me.

Read Bias alert – she’s a fellow film critic – but Emma Dibdin’s debut novel, the cult-themed mystery The Room By the Lake (Head of Zeus £14.99), is first on my holiday reading list.

Boy Better Know at Glastonbury.



Boy Better Know at Glastonbury. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Tara Joshi

Pop
Capitalising on the thriving grime scene, prolific collective Boy Better Know are taking over the O2 Arena in London on 27 August. With members including Wiley, Skepta and JME, BBK have a track record when it comes to raves pulsing with raw, raucous energy, and this day-long event should be no exception. The multistage lineup also includes the likes of J Hus, A$AP Rocky, Ms Banks, and there’s a roller disco, a skate and BMX park, and a cinema.

Watch There are plenty of worthy flicks on as part of the Film4 Summer Screen line-up at Somerset House, London, but Bhaji on the Beach, Gurinder Chadha’s 1993 ode to the south Asian female diaspora on holiday in Blackpool (17 August) seems especially tantalising. Do Notting Hill Carnival (26-28 August). Always a special weekend, with its sequin and soca-filled celebration of the local community. In the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, this year’s event feels more important than ever.

Wendy Ide

Film
Open-air film screenings can be decidedly hit-and-miss. The weather aside, there’s a whole raft of other factors that can conspire to ruin an alfresco movie experience. There’s nothing like buttocks numbed from two hours sat on cold, hard concrete and a lack of proper lumbar support to take you out of a narrative. Which is why the Rooftop Cinema Club at Peckham’s Bussey Building is my pick of the moonlit movie-viewing events. While they can’t control the weather, they do provide seats – almost-too-comfortable deckchairs – which alleviate that inelegant scrum over a small, unforgiving patch of floor that ruins other outdoor film experiences. The audience is also provided with wireless headphones, which means not even London traffic can drown out the dialogue. And the programming – a mix of classic films and recent hits – is first-rate. My tips would be Trainspotting (30 July) or Goodfellas (27 August), both of which are preceded by a live music set from up-and-coming bands.

See Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines at the Photographer’s Gallery until 8 October. Crewdson is the master of ominous Americana; this exhibition is a must-see.

Read The Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams. Perfectly crafted short stories to slot into the gaps in summer holiday childcare.

The open-air cinema on the roof of Peckham’s Bussey Building.



The open-air cinema on the roof of Peckham’s Bussey Building. Photograph: Simon Turner / Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

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