Riverside Tea Garden at Cambridge Museum of Technology

There’s a massive chimney that dominates the skyline down at Riverside.  It’s in amongst a cluster of Victorian buildings that make up the Museum of Technology and I’ve walked past it dozens of times but never really knew what it was all about.  When I heard that there’s going to be a pop up Riverside Tea Garden there this summer, I decided to find out more and met with Assistant Curator, Morgan Bell.

Cambridge Museum of Technology

Built in 1894, the 53 metre tall chimney is part of a Victorian sewage pumping station which is now the Museum.  Here they burned the city’s household rubbish to create steam to fuel engines that pumped the city’s sewage out to a treatment plant in Milton.  Prior to this, sewage had discharged into the River Cam, causing cholera outbreaks so this wonderful Victorian engineering transformed public health in Cambridge.  The pumping station was decommissioned in 1968, at which point a group of local campaigners saved it from demolition and turned the buildings into a museum.

Hathorn Davey pumping machine Cambridge

Owned independently and funded by admission fees and donations, the Museum houses the last Hathorn Davey pumping engines in the world that still work.  It has also built up a collection of telecoms equipment, televisions and radios from Pye and historic scientific instruments from Cambridge Instrument Company.

Hathorn Davey pumping machine Cambridge

The Museum is currently closed as there’s a major redevelopment under way, thanks to money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Restoration of the old buildings is complicated and painstaking as they are a Scheduled Ancient Monument and permission is needed even to paint in there!  There are plans for a new building to house exhibition and learning space plus a cafe building with views over the river.  The boiler is being repaired so it can once again supply steam to run the pumping engines and they’re hoping to be open by mid 2019.

Boiler at Cambridge Museum of Technology

This redevelopment is about preserving heritage of course but it’s also about inspiring a generation of future engineers and innovators.  Jinx St. Leger, the Education Officer, tells me about the outreach programme with primary and secondary schools, encouraging students to look at STEM subjects in a new light.  “It’s teaching engineering by stealth,” she smiles.  “We make stomp rockets, create origami, make print blocks and masks and use a morse code machine to send and decode messages.”  Jinx will be running four craft based and four engineering based events over the summer at the Museum of Cambridge (check out http://www.museumofcambridge.org.uk/events for more details).

Cambridge Museum of Technology

Now back to the tea and cake … on Sunday afternoons between 15 July and 5 August, you’ll be able to enjoy drinks and cream teas at the Riverside Tea Garden in idyllic surroundings on the Museum’s lawn overlooking the river.  There’ll be stalls selling treasures, crafts, books, clothes, baked goods and produce.  And I’ve booked my ticket for The Floating Museum, a boat trip happening on various dates through the summer, during which you’ll discover more about the city’s industrial heritage along the river.  All profits from these ventures go back to the Museum to help fund the restoration.  Full details, plus a booking facility for The Floating Museum, are on the website.

http://www.museumoftechnology.com

The Old Pumping Station, Cheddars Lane, Cambridge CB5 8LD

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival

Dr David Crilly describes himself to me as “a musician from Liverpool”.  His first brush with The Bard was as a post graduate student of musicology at Oxford University when a friend asked him to be Musical Director for a student production of “The Taming of the Shrew”.  While David was happy with the incidental music he composed, he was distinctly underwhelmed by the production and reckoned that he could definitely do better himself!  Without further ado, bolstered by the insouciance of youth and undaunted by his lack of experience in the producing/directing department, he appointed himself Artistic Director, put an advertisement in “The Stage” newspaper and set about casting “Macbeth”.  And so it began ….

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival Macbeth

…. Now in its 31st year, the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival holds 4th position in The Independent’s Top 50 UK Arts Festivals and attracts upwards of 25,000 visitors a year, from all over the world.

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival A Midsummer Night's DreamThis summer, the Festival runs from 9 July to 25 August, bringing its open air productions to the stunning and intimate surroundings of private College gardens which the public can’t normally access.  Heck, even the College students can’t access some of these!  Think the Fellows’ Gardens at King’s College and Trinity College and the Scholar’s Garden at St John’s, all of them hidden gems.  This year’s programme includes crowd pleasers “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Macbeth” alongside plays such as “Cymbeline” and “Pericles” which are perhaps less well known.

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival The Taming of the ShrewThe actors perform in full period costume and there is live Elizabethan music.  This is Shakespeare without gimmicks … in the magical atmosphere of the gardens, with the light changing as the sun goes down, David creates productions that everybody can enjoy whether they’re familiar with Shakespeare or not.

Festival prep begins in February as David starts to audition professional actors to build a company.  Each actor appears in two plays so the rehearsal period during June is intense with 12 hour days.  And once July’s plays are under way, the cast rehearses the August plays during the day.  Inevitably, the company (who lodge in College accommodation) becomes a very tight unit.  Along the way this has led, rather romantically, to 11 marriages!

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival The Comedy of Errors

It’s over thirty years since David appointed himself Artistic Director and founded this Festival.  Since then, he’s developed a linked programme of educational events for students of all ages.  He composes and conducts, writes and publishes, researches and lectures here and overseas.

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival Pericles

Each of the 8 plays in this year’s programme holds one charity matinee performance at 2pm, raising funds for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices and St John’s Hospice on the Wirral, in memory of David’s sister.  Tickets are only available on the door for these performances and you need to pay with cash as every penny raised goes to the charities.  Funds raised over the years come to £89,650 so far and David hopes to hit £100,000 this year.

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival Twelfth Night

All performances start at 7.30pm but you can arrive in the beautiful College grounds to enjoy your picnic from 6.30pm.  Mulled wine is served in the interval and children of all ages are welcome.  You can buy tickets and season tickets in advance through the Festival website but there are always tickets for sale for every performance on the door too.

http://www.cambridgeshakespeare.com

These productions take place at multiple venues across the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cam Sight Cambridge

Cam Sight is a wonderful Cambridge charity that I’ve been meaning to write about for some time now.  From its Cambridge HQ in Chesterton and its Wisbech outreach centre, its staff and a band of around 350 dedicated volunteers work to ensure that clients with low vision and blindness can access the support and advice they need to live the life they choose.

Camsight logo
Image credit: Cam Sight

I met with Nick Burr, Cam Sight’s Fundraising and Promotions Officer, and his beautiful assistance dog Amber, to find out more about this remarkable organisation which began life as the Cambridge Society for the Blind in 1912 and which today works with around 1800 clients across Cambridgeshire.

Camsight client
Image credit: Cam Sight

The services that Cam Sight offers are extensive.  On the practical side of life, there’s help with choosing of and training on the many technologies available.  There’s a weekly magnification and lighting clinic and they sell a wide range of equipment to help with carrying out day to day tasks, from talking clocks to canes, kitchen safety aids and large button telephones.  In one-to-one sessions, a (re)habilitation specialist can help with mobility, orientation and daily living skills while the community team visits clients at home, to help and advise with welfare and housing benefits application as well as adaptations to the home.

 

Cam Sight befriender
Image credit: Cam Sight

 

Cam Sight group
Image credit: Cam Sight

The emotional side of life is, of course, just as important as the practical.  Cam Sight organises outings and social activities while volunteer befrienders give support and companionship in many different ways.  And in a peer support initiative, there are monthly gatherings held across Cambridgeshire for clients, their carers and family members.  Cam Sight also offers emotional support and counselling sessions.

“We run three groups for children,” Nick tells me, “for preschool and 4 – 11 year olds, then the teenage group is a lot of fun, whether they’re playing pool and eating pizza, enjoying an activity day or a trip to a theme park.”

Cam Sight Tandem Team
Image credit: Cam Sight

Cam Sight also supports clients to return to sport or indeed to try a new sport.  Tandem cycling is an option, with a trained sighted pilot and a low vision stoker.  They own seven tandems and on 1 July, several pairs will be cycling in the annual London to Cambridge bike ride (yes, that is 63 miles!) to raise money for Cam Sight.  So they’re busy training and if you’d like to sponsor them, please get in touch at nick@camsight.org.uk

Cam Sight Tandem
Image credit: Cam Sight

Another fundraiser coming up is Cam Sight’s first Golf Day on 20 July at Cambridge Meridian Golf Club.  You can enter individually or get a team of four together.  There’ll be 18 holes of golf plus breakfast, a barbecue, prizes, a raffle and an auction, all for a suggested donation of £60 per person.  To sign up for the Golf Day, just contact nick@camsight.org.uk

On 17 July at 7.30pm, there’s a talk “John Henslow and the Education of Charles Darwin” given by Professor John Parker, former Director of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, at the Sainsburys Laboratory Auditorium.  Tickets are £15, include canapes and drinks and are available from Cam Sight on 01223 420033.  Fundraising activities are also organised by the Friends of Cam Sight, a group who run their own events in support of the charity’s work.

Cam Sight befriender
Image credit: Cam Sight

If you’d be interested in volunteering with Cam Sight, there are many roles available from driving to befriending, helping with bucket collections at external events and riding as a pilot on a tandem.  Joy Hallifax, the volunteer team leader, would be delighted to hear from you.  Just email her on joy@camsight.org.uk  All volunteers receive an induction with full training and ongoing support.

www.camsight.org.uk

167 Green End Road, Cambridge CB4 1RW

14 Chapel Road, Wisbech PE13 1RF

 

 

A Christmas Film Festival with Enchanted Cinema

What could be nicer at this time of year than snuggling up in front of a Christmas movie??  Well, you can do just that at Enchanted Cinema’s Christmas Film Festival which is happening at The Robinson Theatre at Hills Road Sixth Form College this Saturday, 16 December.

Online EC Christmas Poster_A3_flat
Image credit: Enchanted Cinema

The day starts at 10am with Disney’s “Frozen”, after which a real Elsa will be visiting to sing and chat with her young fans.  At 1pm, there’s an autism friendly screening of “The Polar Express”, so it’ll offer a relaxed environment with light levels slightly higher than normal and sound levels slightly lower.  Then you can sit back and enjoy the antics of everybody’s favourite hapless singleton in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” at 4pm.  And finally, at 7pm you can laugh and cry at Richard Curtis’s Christmas classic, “Love Actually”.  That lobster costume gets me every time!!

Enchanted Cinema Logo
Image credit: Enchanted Cinema

Cambridge residents may be familiar with Enchanted Cinema’s summer outdoor screenings, complete with deckchairs, headphones and street food, at locations in and around the city.  Ellen Downes and Will Morrish set up the business in 2015, initially for small social events.  Now they bring an enhanced cinema experience to weddings, parties and corporate events with live music, food, decor and lighting alongside the film screening.

For this event, The Robinson Theatre will be transformed into a cosy, festive space and, as well as live music between films, there’ll be a pop up café running all day next to the theatre, serving hot drinks, mulled wine, cakes and brownies, much of which has been given by local businesses.  The mince pies are being donated by Radmore Farm Shop, which I wrote about here on the blog in November.

each-logo
Image credit: EACH

This Festival is a fundraiser for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices which provide care and support for children and young people with life-threatening illnesses as well as end of life care for dying children and their families.  All profits from this event will go to the hospice in Milton where, very sadly, Ellen’s sister passed away in May this year.  Ellen and her family are so thankful for all the support and care they received from the EACH team over the years and they are raising funds to help ensure that the wonderful work of the hospice continues with other children and families.

Tickets for the Festival are bookable through Enchanted Cinema’s website where you can also buy tickets for their prize draw, which offers loads of awesome prizes.  So go on, take a break from the yuletide prep, head for Hills Road, grab a mince pie and settle back to enjoy some Christmas magic from Enchanted Cinema.

www.enchantedcinema.co.uk

Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge CB2 8PE

 

“Pots for Poverty” at The Locker Cafe

One of the best things about writing this blog is the people I meet.  They’re always interesting and everybody has a story to tell but lately, and maybe it’s just co-incidence, I’ve met several career scientists who also have a strong artistic bent.  There’s the orthopaedic surgeon who is a talented musician and a major mover on the city’s jazz scene.  Then there’s the seismologist turned photographer whose photographs of college libraries created a buzz when she exhibited recently at Michaelhouse.  And now I’ve met John Hodges, a consultant neurologist who makes the most beautiful ceramics.

raku pot
Image credit:  John Hodges

John worked for many years at Addenbrookes where he set up the first Memory Clinic and a dementia research group.  Following a sabbatical year in Sydney, John and his family moved to Australia where he established a research centre into frontotemporal dementia at the University of New South Wales.  This centre continues to thrive and John still has a part-time involvement but he is now based back in Cambridge where he is co-owner with his son, Adam, of The Locker Cafe on King Street, which I featured in a post in September and whose Chocolate Guinness cake is my current obsession!

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John has been creating ceramics for fifteen years.  Following courses in Cambridge and Suffolk and with the encouragement of potter friends here and in Australia, he built a studio in his garden, complete with a wheel and kiln.  John makes stoneware and raku pieces and last year raised over £2,000 for Jimmy’s Cambridge in a charity event that he held at home.

bowls stoneware
Image credit:  John Hodges

Now that The Locker Cafe is up and running, John is holding another charity event, “Pots for Poverty” at the cafe from Thursday 7 – Sunday 10 December.  As well as his ceramics, you’ll find stoneware pottery from Chesterton-based Susan Cupitt, art from Carol Gregory and her printmaking group, calendars by Sally Greaves featuring her vibrant and colourful photographs of Guatemala, Christmas cards, handmade candles in raku bowls and ceramic tree decorations.

raku candles
Image credit:  John Hodges

Proceeds will go to two local charities.  Jimmy’s Cambridge has been providing emergency accommodation for the city’s homeless for over 20 years.  CamCRAG, the Cambridge Convoy Refugee Action Group, works to help refugees in Northern France and elsewhere, raising awareness of their plight and sending regular convoys with clothing and other aid.

So do pop in to The Locker Cafe, check out these beautiful and unique pieces and maybe tick a few presents off your Christmas list or, better still, buy a Christmas present for yourself!

http://www.thelockercafe.co.uk

54 King Street, Cambridge CB1 1LN

 

Faure Requiem with Cambridge Fundraising Choir

It’s often hard to know how best to respond in the face of shocking news.  But a group of choral scholars from the University of Cambridge knew exactly what to do when, very sadly, a fellow student was diagnosed with a brain tumour.  They joined forces and their voices to create Cambridge Fundraising Choir and since January this year, they’ve been singing to raise funds for Cancer Research UK’s Brain Tumour Research.

These students are all choral scholars at their various colleges.  That’s a huge honour and is testament to their outstanding musical talent but it’s also a major commitment on top of their academic work, with several rehearsals and chapel services each week plus a touring and recording schedule outside term.  Ellie Tobin, a Trinity College student and a founder member of the choir tells me, “There’s a terrific atmosphere.  We’ve come together as a group of friends to make music and I think that special connection between us really comes over when we sing.”

Cambridge Fundraising Choir
Image credit: Cambridge Fundraising Choir

The choir has already performed four concerts across the country and has raised over £4,500 to support the pioneering research work which is leading to new treatment methods.  On Saturday 4 November, they’ll be singing in Trinity College Chapel.  It’ll be an evening of reflective choral music, including the beautiful Faure Requiem and works by Finzi, Howells and Vaughan Williams.  Admission is free, refreshments will be served and there will be a retiring collection in aid of Cancer Research UK’s Brain Tumour Research.  If you can’t get to the concert but would like to make a donation, you can do so online at https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/cambridge-fundraising-choir   Every penny raised will go directly to the charity.

http://www.cambridgefundraisingchoir.com

This event is being held at Trinity College, Cambridge CB2 1TQ

Firewalk for Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre

Firewalking sounds a little bit hazardous ….. but this act of walking across a bed of hot embers has been practised by many people and cultures all over the world since about 1200BC, mainly as a rite of passage, a test of religious faith or of an individual’s courage and strength.  Now Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre is holding a Firewalk on Saturday 28 October – this is their biggest fundraising event of the year and money raised will go to support their vital work.

Fire being raked
Image credit: B.L.A.Z.E

Claire Gardner of Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre tells me that participants find the Firewalk an uplifting experience, feeling elated, even invincible, having walked on hot embers.  Friends, family and spectators are all welcome to join in with the celebrations and enjoy the music, entertainment, refreshments and glitter stand while cheering on the brave firewalkers.  To take part in the Firewalk, you must be aged over sixteen and you need to register in advance on http://tinyurl.com/crccfirewalk, donate £25 at registration and undertake to raise a minimum of £125 sponsorship.

The Firewalk is run by B.L.A.Z.E, the leading charity firewalking experts who have been running these events in the UK since 1984 so you can be sure that they have the health and safety sorted.  B.L.A.Z.E will work with participants in a training session before the event so that everyone is fully prepped for that twenty foot walk across hot embers.

Person firewalking
Image credit: B.L.A.Z.E

Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre offers support to women and girls who have experienced rape, childhood sexual abuse or any other form of sexual violence.  It operates a confidential telephone helpline and email support alongside a face-to-face counselling service and an Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy Service to help women navigate the criminal justice system.

CRCC banner
Image credit: Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre

In a week during which a certain Hollywood mogul has barely been out of the news and the #MeToo campaign has gone viral on social media, we have all become more aware of just how widespread sexual harassment and violence are.  Please sponsor a firewalker, donate what you can or volunteer your time to keep the work of this amazing organisation going as it offers support to the girls and women of our city.

http://www.cambridgerapecrisis.org.uk

http://www.facebook.com/CambridgeRapeCrisis

This event is being held at Cambridge Women’s Resource Centre, The Wharf, Hooper Street, Cambridge CB1 2NZ