Marriage Italian Style - Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastrianni at the BFI

The Luminaries April Hot List is here! This is your cultural cornucopia guide to Spring. A hand-picked magical roundup of what to do, see and experience to burnish your mind, heart, green fingers and sensibilities, slowly.

You won't want to miss the last living Hollywood goddess, Sophia Loren, who stars in one of the great classics of Italian cinema, Marriage Italian Style, opposite her brilliant and beloved, romantic sparring partner, Marcello Mastrianni, streaming on the BFI Player . Then to Oxford's lofty spires to get lost in a reimagined labyrinth in ancient Crete and the Abbey Ruins in Reading to explore the cruel reign of King Henry 1st before the play takes a summer tour to Winchester Great Hall and the Actor's Theatre, Covent Garden. N.B. Our readers in America and Canada can watch classic film masterpieces on the BFI website. Just visit the BFI for details.  Our hot ticket? Dan Saladino's talk and Michelin star endangered foods lunch at Gravetye Manor on May the 17th with chef George Blogg. For slow-food lovers, the hotel grows 25 varieties of endangered apples. Do you need any other excuse to hot-foot it over to Sussex in May?

Read on for the full review and I hope it inspires you.

Enjoy the culture trip, Alison Jane, Editor, The Luminaries Magazine, April  2023.

Spain and the Hispanic World at the Royal Academy

The Duchess of Alba By Goya - Courtesy of The Royal Academy

Last chance to see Goya's stunning girl power painting of The Duchess of Alba at the Royal Academy's knock-out exhibition on 4,000 years of Spanish history, power, plunder and cultural influence which ends this Bank Holiday Monday.

The treasures on display are in London for the first time, courtesy of The Hispanic Society Museum and Library in New York.

Study Goya's painting carefully. The artist signs his remarkable study in the sand as his imperious subject shows that she is the mistress of all that she can see.

Fashion aficionados will revel in the details of The Duchess of Alba's opulent finery. She is crowned with an intricate black lace mantilla that contrasts with a gilded bodice and silk sash and just look at those dainty gold and silver embellished shoes!

A Hand-painted and Embellished Box - Royal Academy London

There are many other highlights, treasures and wonder to explore as each room in the exhibition reveals the power, significance and history of Spain through the exquisite artefacts from golden caskets to a map of the known world and silk textiles created at home and in the Americas from the profits of the empire.

The final luminous and uplifting flourish is a selection of epoch-defining paintings by leading post-impressionist and modern artists including Joaquin Sarolla, Ignacio Zuloaga and Jose Guttierez Solana.  

The Royal Academy of Arts London

Ashmolean Museum Oxford

Sir Arthur Evans, Archaeologist and Director of The Ashmolean Museum

Labyrinth - Knossos, Myth and Reality

Move over pharaohs and Romans!  This year the focus is on Crete,  the Palace of Knossos and the search for the mythical labyrinth and the Minotaur in The Ashmolean Museum's thrilling, interactive exhibition - Labyrinth, Myth and Reality.

Stephen Fry loved this exhibition which brings the land of King Minos to spectacular life with the reimagining of Knossos by video game masters Assassin's Creed.

The Cretan Minotaur

The museum has a very special relationship with Crete.  Archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, the museum's first director, famously led the excavations at Knossos, at the beginning of the 20th Century. His work transformed our understanding of the 8,000-year-old Minoan civilisation.  Many of the artefacts he found, together with his excavation plans, artworks and records are on display together with 100 objects from Crete and Greece that have not been seen outside the country before.

Pottery from Knossos

A RESTORATION (2016), an 18-minute, two-screen digital video and sound installation by Turner Prize-winning artist Elizabeth Price, is shown in the third gallery.

Visit The Ashmolean Museum and Labyrinth

Exhibition: Labyrinth: Knossos, Myth & Reality
Dates: 10 February–30 July 2023
Hours: Daily, 10 am–5 pm
Venue: The John Sainsbury Exhibition Galleries, Floor 3, Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH
Admission: £7.65–£17.00, available at the Museum or online at
Publication: The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, £25, available at the Ashmolean or online

Eating to Extinction - Dan Saladino Talk at Gravetye Manor

Food Journalist Dan Saladino in Conversation at Gravetye Manor

A talk and real food lunch not to be missed. Dan Saladino, food journalist, presenter, and producer of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme will be in conversation with Gravetye's Manor's executive chef George Blogg on May 17th.

Dan is the author of Eating to Extinction - a book which explores the history of our relationship with cultivated food and how our ancient food crops and seeds of life are being engineered and hybridised to the brink of extinction.

Don't be put off by the title. The book is magical and every home should have a copy to dip into regularly, in order to understand and explore our food heritage and how to save it. I bet Stanley Tucci has a copy!

A Birds Eye View of the Kitchen Garden at Gravetye Manor

Gravetye Manor’s Executive Chef, George Blogg will join Dan in conversation to discuss themes from his book which explores some of the world’s most endangered foods and take readers through a magical history of humankind’s relationship with food. Following the talk, guests will enjoy a 3-course lunch, including wine, coffee, tea, water and petit fours, in the glass-fronted Michelin-starred dining room at shared tables.

Gravetye Manor Executive Chef George Blogg

Tickets for the book event and lunch, priced at £130, will also include a paperback copy of Eating to Extinction, signed by the author, plus tea and coffee for guests on arrival.

Guests are also invited to explore Gravetye Manor’s garden for a self-guided tour following lunch, to experience the flower garden and kitchen garden, where homegrown produce starts its journey.

For More Information or to Book Tickets Visit the Hotel Website -

Gravetye Manor

Henry 1st Play from the Abbey Ruins Reading to Winchester and Covent Garden

Rabble Theatre Presents Henry the 1st - A Play by Beth Flintoff

This summer Reading’s RABBLE Theatre perform Beth Flintoff's historical play Henry 1 in the city's atmospheric Abbey Ruins, overlooking Reading Gaol, before they take the play on the road to Winchester Great Hall and Covent Garden.  

“To be exporting culture from Reading is an exciting step for our town and to be invited to perform in these two locations is a real privilege,” says Dani Davies, Co-Artistic Director, of RABBLE Theatre.

RABBLE’s opening venue, Reading Abbey, was founded by the play’s namesake as a plea to God as he begged for forgiveness for his sins, after a ruthless reign. It is where King Henry chose to be buried and anticipation is growing at the excitement of watching Beth Flintoff’s play, Henry I performed right above the royal burial site between the 13th of June - the 1st of July.

Then, the play goes on the road to Winchester Great Hall, a marvel of mediaeval architecture and of real significance to RABBLE’s production, having been founded by Henry's father, William the Conqueror. After a rogue arrow had put an end to the life of Henry's brother, King William, Henry leapt on a horse and raced to Winchester where he seized the crown.

RABBLE’s Henry I will be performing in The Great Hall between 12th - 15th July.

“It is an honour for us all at RABBLE to be taking Henry I to this magnificent heritage site and we'd like to thank the teams at both Theatre Royal Winchester and Hampshire County Council who have worked tirelessly to make this special production possible.” Toby Davies, Co-Artistic Director, RABBLE Theatre.

The play will finish its run in Covent Garden, in the heart of London. The Actor's Church is a space, steeped in theatrical tradition. Famous actors are remembered on plaques in the church’s interior, actors and stage crew have held their burial services here for years and, in July, RABBLE will be performing their dynamic play Henry I inside the building between 20th - 22nd July.

“Henry I is an energetic, bold and thrilling modern history play and we’re looking forward to performing in this beautiful location, in the heart of London.” Hal Chambers, Director.

Rabble Theatre Reading

Sophia Loren  The Last Hollywood Goddess

Marriage Italian Style, Starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastrianni

At eighty-eight, Sophia Loren is the last living goddess from Hollywood's golden age. Want to bask in her outrageous loveliness and incandescent realism?  The BFI is streaming Marriage Italian Style, 1964, one of the finest romantic comedies of all time with Sophia Loren playing opposite her favourite sparring partner Marcello Mastrianni. Based on the celebrated play Filumena, Loren is without equal as the downtrodden mistress of Mastrianni's spoilt, philandering businessman who carelessly exploits, humiliates and disregards her for twenty-two years until she fights back and shows him what love, self-sacrifice and survival really look like.

Sophia Loren as Filumena

Sophia Loren Marriage Italian Style at the BFI

Sarah Raven

Cut Flowers in Sarah Raven's Garden at Perch Hill Farm

Flower Power - Learn How to Grow Flowers All Year with Gardener Sarah Raven

Sarah Raven, GP turned gardener extraordinaire has done so much to champion bold beautiful flowers in our gardens, together with exciting ideas on how to grow your own food and nurture a wildlife-friendly garden.

The author of inspirational books on cut flowers, delicious, home-grown healthy food and container gardening, Sarah is a one-woman gardening champion from her home at Perch Hill Farm in East Sussex.  

Did you know that Sarah runs courses and open days at Perch Hill Farm and other handpicked locations to pass on the expertise and skill she has learned about creating a magical, wildlife-friendly garden whether you have a balcony or a meadow?

To find out more about Sarah's courses and open days, visit the website.

Sarah Raven

Alison Jane Reid/The Luminaries Magazine Copyright All Rights Reserved April 2023.

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The Criterion Collection has kindly donated a prize of five classic, iconic films from the collection worth £100 approximately. Read about the competition and Blu-ray films here.  The editor will randomly choose a winner from one of the next ten readers to subscribe to the magazine's 100% features feed and take out a yearly, voluntary subscription to the magazine. UK addresses only. There is no cash alternative and the editor's decision is final.