Artsfest 2018

Artsfest 2018 returns to St Paul’s Church on Hills Road from 26 – 31 March, celebrating creativity and culture with events and activities for all ages throughout the week, based around the theme of “Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained”.

Artsfest 2018 poster
Image credit:  Artsfest 2018

The Festival has been organised by Martin and Julia Evans with Kip and Jane Gresham.  They’re building on the foundations of the very successful inaugural Artsfest held in 2016 and they firmly believe that people can flourish when they have the chance to be creative.

Artfest 18 workshop
Image credit: Artsfest 2018

There’s a packed schedule through the week, whether you want to be hands on or prefer to watch and listen.  Daytime workshops for adults include printmaking, creative writing, drawing and painting and there’s a daily after school art workshop for children while a drop in embroidery group will stitch through each day.  Anyone can share in the daily lunchtime and evening meals; indeed, the cafe is at the heart of the Festival, offering a place for everyone to meet, talk and share experiences.

A range of talks includes print maker Kip Gresham who will look at the way artists make their work and Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and now Master of Magdalene College, who will explore the theme of hope and loss through poetry.

Artsfest 2018 music
Image credit: Artsfest 2018

Evening events include a performance from local performing arts college Bodywork Company Cambridge, a jazz concert and the world premiere of an opera based on John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” with leading counter tenor Lawrence Zazzo.  On the final day of the Festival, there’ll be a Scratch “Messiah” in which everybody is welcome to take part, whether as a singer, an orchestra musician or an audience member.

Artsfest 2018 St Paul's, Hills Road
Image credit: Artsfest 2018

St Paul’s is an Anglican church and community centre.  Its motto is “All are welcome, all are safe” and its doors are open every day to welcome everybody, whether they have a faith or not.  “We want to bring people together,” Martin tells me, “and we believe that in creating a positive community we can help to combat the loneliness felt by so many.”  Around two thousand people use the building each week, either to attend the daily service, to join in with one of the many classes (think yoga, lindy hop, salsa and more) or simply to sit quietly in the foyer.

You’ll find full details of all the Artsfest 2018 events on their website.  Most workshops and all the exhibitions, talks and lunchtime concerts are free, although voluntary donations are always welcome.  Evening events cost £7.50 per head.  For logistical purposes, workshop places need to be booked in advance through the website.  Finally, please email if you’d like to get involved as a volunteer and help to run this wonderful celebration of culture and creativity.

Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 1JP


The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

The start of my day was somewhat more glamorous than usual today … The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie kindly invited me to a bloggers’ breakfast.  This was exciting on two counts.  Firstly, I’ve been watching the restaurant take shape and looking forward to stepping inside on opening day and tasting their food.  And secondly, it was lovely to meet some other local bloggers (blogging at your kitchen table being quite a solitary pursuit!).

Ivy frontage

The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie is a really chic addition to the city’s restaurant scene.  It’s bright and colourful with emerald green, mustard yellow and burnt orange velvet furnishings complementing the vivid wall to wall artwork.  With its art deco style lighting and beautiful plants and flowers, this feels like a place to linger.

Ivy seating colours

Ivy entrance

And you can linger as The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie offers dining through the day from breakfast to dinner, serving British food including Ivy classics like their famous Shepherd’s Pie.  Or you can just come for a drink, maybe enjoy a cocktail, at the well stocked bar where the white jacketed bartenders and acres of sparkling glassware amp up the wow factor.

Ivy bartender

So, what did we eat?  Well, our menu offered delectable pastries alongside freshly pressed juices and I enjoyed a pot of really good Darjeeling tea.

Ivy pastries

Then on to Eggs Royale with smoked salmon and two perfectly poached hen’s eggs on a toasted English muffin with a creamy yet tangy hollandaise sauce.  Other dishes at my table included avocado, roast plum tomatoes and poached eggs on toasted granary bread with a sesame dressing and a stack of hot buttermilk pancakes with berries, yoghurt, lemon balm and a warm strawberry sauce.  The presentation of each dish was impeccable as was the discreet yet efficient service.

Ivy eggs

There’s also The Boat Room, a really beautiful private dining room downstairs which would be the perfect space for a private party or corporate event.  This room seats sixteen people on one long table or holds forty guests for a stand up reception and has its own seasonal menus for lunch and dinner with breakfast and canape menus too.

Ivy private room

When you’re planning to visit, it would be wise to book a table in advance as I reckon this place will be very popular indeed but they do hold a number of tables each day for people who don’t have reservations.  For myself, I’m looking forward already to returning with friends and family who, I’m sure, will enjoy The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie’s vibe as much as I do.

16 Trinity Street, Cambridge CB2 1TB

Cambridge Growing Spaces

Growing Spaces is a wonderful project which creates, plants and maintains edible gardens in the city which can be harvested by anybody …. anybody at all and the food is free!

GS veg bed
Image credit:  Growing Spaces

The Growing Spaces team, run by Sandra Cortijo, plants these gardens in unloved and underused public spaces in Cambridge (having first received permission from the landowner!).  There are currently six gardens dotted around the city – you can check out their locations on the website.  “Each garden has its own story,” Sandra tells me.  “They’re generally not high maintenance but they are regularly checked, so they’re kept healthy and tidy.”


GS raised beds
Image credit:  Growing Spaces

If a volunteer can commit to giving some extra care during a growing season, the group will plant vegetables such as tomatoes, courgettes and beans.  If not, they’ll plant herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme alongside fruit bushes.

GS herbs
Image credit:  Growing Spaces
GS blackcurrants
Image credit: Growing Spaces

Growing Spaces gardens for and with the community.  Volunteers supply seedlings and nurseries often donate plants while YMCA volunteers build frames for the raised beds.  The team installs, fills and plants these tall raised beds on the same day.  To make sure that their edible gardens thrive, they have perfected the “lasagna method” of filling the beds with layers of cardboard, branches, hay, paper, soil, dried leaves, grass cuttings and mulch.  This creates a nutrient rich permaculture that decomposes over time and needs less watering.  You’ll find full details of this “lasagna method” on the Growing Spaces website under the “Resources” tab.

GS swap and share stall
Image credit: Growing Spaces

The group organises cycle tours of its gardens, so people can see what’s growing and where.  It also has a free gardening club where people of all ages get together to grow their own vegetables and herbs.   The team runs a fresh produce swap and share stall at events like the Pumpkin Festival, giving everybody a chance to share their excess allotment or garden produce or just to come and choose some fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs for free.


Growing Spaces is part of Transition Cambridge, an organisation which “aims to help the city make the transition to ways of life that are more resilient in the face of rising energy prices and a changing climate”.  A grant from the Council got the Growing Spaces group started and Sandra got involved in 2013.  Growing up, Sandra had always gardened with her mother and grandparents at home in France but had then stopped.  “I relearned gardening with this group,” Sandra says “and really, no knowledge is necessary.  We try things out and see what works best.”

If you’d like to volunteer to plan and plant with the team or if you know of a space in the city that needs care, just email Sandra through the Growing Spaces website.

Free Cakes Cambridge

Every so often, you come across an idea that’s so simple and yet so perfect.  When pictures of fabulous cakes started coming up on my Instagram feed recently, I was intrigued and, being a keen baker myself, I decided to find out more about Free Cakes Cambridge.

Free Cakes choc cake

Their concept is straightforward.  A volunteer baker makes a birthday or celebration cake for someone who wouldn’t otherwise receive one.  Partner organisations such as children’s centres, Wintercomfort, Cambridge Women’s Aid and The Teenage Cancer Trust put in a request to Free Cakes Cambridge HQ for a cake, personalised to the recipient’s favourite theme or taste.  The baker makes the cake at home and delivers it to the lucky recipient personally.

Free cakes frozen cakeThe Free Cakes Cambridge group was set up in 2014 by Claire Eudall, an enthusiastic baker who wanted to use her skills for good purposes.  It’s an offshoot of the Free Cakes for Kids community organisation which started in Oxford in 2007 and which today has eighty groups spread across the UK.  Rosalyn Scott joined in 2016 and now runs the Cambridge group of around forty volunteers, the majority of whom are keen amateur bakers living in and around the city, although there are also two professional bakers on the team.

Free Cakes superman cakeYou don’t need any special qualifications to get involved.  “We send out food prep guidelines to our bakers,” Rosalyn tells me.  “You just need to love baking and have a good imagination.  And you must be happy to take a theme and run with it.”  Volunteer bakers get together regularly for cake decorating workshops and, of course, for afternoon tea!

The Free Cakes Cambridge team has created some amazing cake designs, as you can see from the photos in this post.  But it’s not just the gorgeous design that matters.  A special cake made just for them helps people facing difficulties to feel supported and valued, as well as giving family and friends a wonderful chance to celebrate together.

Free Cakes number one cake

If you work with a potential partner organisation or if you’d like to volunteer to join the team and spread some love in the form of baked goods around this city, just email Rosalyn on or contact her through the group’s Facebook page (where you can also feast your eyes on lots of lovely cake photos!).

All image credits:  Free Cakes Cambridge





Kettle’s Yard

Kettle’s Yard House and Gallery on Castle Street has recently reopened after a lengthy refurbishment which has enabled Director, Andrew Nairne, and his team to create new gallery space to display modern and contemporary art from around the world.

KY frontage
Image credit:  Hufton + Crow


The opening exhibition, “Actions.  The image of the world can be different”, showcases the work of thirty eight artists.  “Actions Part 2” will open on 11 April with a two screen film installation, “Auto Da Fe”, from John Akomfrah and paintings by Caroline Walker who, in collaboration with the charity Women for Refugee Women, has painted refugee women housed in temporary accommodation in London.

KY WindowAt the heart of Kettle’s Yard is the house, once home to Jim and Helen Ede who created it from four derelict eighteenth century cottages in the late 1950’s.  With a lifelong passion for art and having worked as a Curator at The Tate during the 1920’s, Jim became close friends with many artists including Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood and David Jones.  Over the years, Jim acquired a significant collection of art and sculpture which he brought to Kettle’s Yard along with furniture, glass and ceramics.  But the Edes equally valued natural found objects and artwork by their grandchildren.  More than anything, they wanted their art to be enjoyed in an informal domestic setting, holding open house every afternoon of the university term and welcoming undergraduates to their home.

Kettle's Yard paintings in house
Image credit: Kettle’s Yard

Kettle's Yard tableNatural light was crucial to the Edes.  The day I visited, the streets were carpeted in snow and the light had a very special ethereal quality to it.  I was struck by the tranquillity of the house and by its colour palette with exposed brick, varying tones of wood, natural linens, pebbles, feathers and shells, all harmonising with the Ede’s art collection to create a wonderful serenity.   Jim and Helen handed over the building and their collection to the University of Cambridge in 1966 so they knew it was in safe hands but it must have been a wrench for them to leave this peaceful haven when they moved to Edinburgh in 1973.

Kettle's Yard greenery in house
Image credit:  Kettle’s Yard

The Ede’s musical tradition continues today with a varied programme of contemporary music and chamber concerts in the house.  New archive and research areas have given enhanced research opportunities in collaboration with the University’s History of Art Department.  A breathtaking double height space is now home to Kettle’s Yard’s education and community programme, hosting a year round schedule of events and activities, many of them free, for all age groups.  It includes workshops, talks, panel discussions and artist led drop in workshops for families every Sunday.

Kettle's Yard education space
Image credit:  Hufton + Crow

At The Garden Kitchen Cafe, you’ll find tea, Fairtrade coffee, cake and light lunches with vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options.   The Shop offers a carefully curated selection of cards, prints, books and jewellery with ceramics from The Leach Pottery and from local ceramicists Rachel Dormor and Maree Allitt alongside beautiful bespoke wrapping paper from Cambridge Imprint, its design inspired by a Barbara Hepworth fabric.

Kettles Yard carved stone

Kettle’s Yard is a very special place that I know I will return to again and again.  There’s such a lot going on there, far more than I can write about in this post, so do check out the website for full details of all that’s happening over the coming months.  Then go and experience the magic of Kettle’s Yard for yourself.

Kettle’s Yard, Castle Street, Cambridge CB3 0AQ


Cambridge Vegan Market

Cambridge Vegan Market returns to The Guildhall, in the heart of the city, on Sunday 11 March.  Sponsored this year by workers’ co-operative Arjuna Wholefoods, the long established Mill Road vegetarian wholefood shop, you’ll find an enormous variety of vegan products, from food to cosmetics to clothing.

Cambridge Vegan Market Cover Photo Mar 2018
Image credit:  Matthew Bradley

I spoke to Lewis Beresford who founded Vegan Markets UK with one very simple aim.  “I want to create a relaxed, inclusive atmosphere where everyone, whether they’re vegan, vegetarian or just curious to find out more, can come and see what’s on offer and get to understand the food, the drink and the lifestyle.”

Vegan Market fruit
Image credit:  Matthew Bradley

A vegan himself, Lewis knows Cambridge well as he graduated in engineering from Clare College.  So it was a natural step to hold his first Vegan Market here in October 2016.  It was such a success that Lewis now also runs markets in Oxford, Derby and Nottingham with a couple of other locations currently in the pipeline.

Vegan Market cakes
Image credit:  Matthew Bradley

Food stands will include London-based Lola’s Cupcakes with their vegan brownies and cupcakes.  There’ll be five hot vegan food stands, amongst which you’ll find Pho with their Vietnamese street food, Indian food from Home Vegan Kitchen and Cambridge’s own Arepa’s Station with their Venezuelan dishes.

Drinks exhibitors will include Green Tea Artisan, showing their range of speciality teas from China, Japan and Nepal.  For alcoholic vegan refreshment, head over the road to The Pint Shop on Peas Hill where you’ll be able to enjoy a selection of vegan ales, lagers and ciders.

Vegan Fair Candles
Image credit:  Matthew Bradley

There’ll be a range of clothing to check out, all ethically produced and 100% vegan, from producers such as Vegan Deviant with their T shirts featuring quirky slogans.  And you’ll find stalls offering ethically produced cosmetics, including Clean and Natural with its 100% natural and organic skin and hair products.


The Vegan Market opens at 10.30am and closes at 4pm.  Lewis recommends arriving early as the venue gets very busy through the day.  Tickets are available on the door and cost £2 for an adult while children get in free.  The first 100 people to arrive will get some free vegan goodies and if you bring your own mug, you’ll even get a free tea or coffee!

The Guildhall, Market Square, Cambridge CB2 3QJ


What’s on in March

February is drawing to a close and although there are signs of Spring here in Cambridge, the outdoor temperature is still extremely bracing!  But there’s plenty going on in the city to get us through to the warmer Spring days, so here’s the what’s on listing for March.  It’s an eclectic mix of events that come to my attention so if you know about an event that could be included, please get in touch through my Contact page.  I’ll update this listing through the month, so do check back when you can.

Railings at Michaelhouse
The railings at Michaelhouse

1st    8pm  Joachim Trio.  Purcell, Beethoven, Schubert and Sibelius.  Kettles Yard.

2nd   5.30pm  Migration 2018: Migration in Science.  Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Avenue

2/3rd   7pm (and 2pm on 3rd)  Swan Lake.  Cambridge University Ballet Society. West Road Concert Hall

3/4th    10am  Innovations in Ceramic Art.  The Guildhall, Market Square

3rd    8.15pm  The Kilgour Consort.  Bach Mass in B Minor.  Trinity College Chapel

4th    9.30am  Cambridge Half Marathon.  Starting and finishing on Midsummer Common

5/12/19th    7pm  Meditation and Emotional Intelligence.  Michaelhouse.

5th    7.30pm  Mozart and Mendelssohn.  The St Margaret’s Society of Queens’ with MagSoc Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.  West Road Concert Hall

8th    8pm  Fever: Jo Harrop sings Peggy Lee.  Hidden Rooms, Jesus Lane

9th    5.30pm  Migration 2018:  Animal Migration.  Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Avenue

10th    The Rising Festival 2018, celebrating International Women’s Day

10th    7.30 pm  The Trinity Singers.  Mendelssohn and Dvorak.  Trinity College Chapel.  Tickets on the door.

10th    8pm  The Orlando Singers. Durufle, Vierne, Bruckner and Poulenc.  Queens’ College Chapel

11th    10.30am  Cambridge Vegan Market.  The Guildhall, Market Square.

11th    7.30pm  CU Chinese Orchestra Society 11th Anniversary Concert.  West Road Concert Hall

17th    5.30pm  Foundation Concert.  Howells and Brahms.  Choir of King’s College with Cambridge University Orchestra.  King’s College Chapel.

17th    6pm  Unleash the Beauty.  Lucy Cavendish Singers.  Emmanuel United Reform Church

17th    7.30pm  French Connections.  Cambridge Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus.  Varese, Stravinsky, Poulenc and Ravel.  West Road Concert Hall.  Free pre-concert talk at 6.45pm.

17th    7.30pm  Fairhaven Singers.  Bernstein and Durufle.  St John’s College Chapel

19th    7pm  Choirs of Jesus College and The Corelli Orchestra.  Bach St John Passion.  Jesus College Chapel

22nd    8pm  Freddie Gavita Quartet.  Hidden Rooms, Jesus Lane

23rd    6pm  Choir of Clare College.  Buxtehude Membra Jesu Nostri, interspersed with readings of poetry from 1918 and extracts from Birdsong.  Clare College Chapel.  Tickets from Old Court Porters’ Lodge

24th    2.30pm  NCT Nearly New Sale.  Preloved parent and baby goods.  Sports Centre, Cambridge Regional College

24th    8pm  New Cambridge Singers.  Scarlatti, MacMillan, Lotti, Bax and Casals.  Trinity College Chapel.  Tickets on the door or from

24/25th    Arts and Crafts Show.  Grantchester Village Hall.  Facebook: Grantchester Arts and Craft Show

26-31st    Arts Fest 2018.  Festival of art, performance and creativity.  St Paul’s Cambridge

Lenten Rose
A beautiful Lenten rose, blooming in my garden