The Big Brunch 2020 Cambridge

What will you be doing on New Year’s Day?? Some of us will be lacing up shiny new trainers and embarking on a fitness regime, some of us will be loafing on the sofa, picking through the remnants of the Quality Street tin. For the homeless, New Year’s Day is the hardest day of the year rather than the optimistic new start that we all hope for. It’s a bleak, cold and lonely day to be endured, with day centres and other support networks shut.

Nish Manek is working hard to make New Year’s Day better for the city’s homeless. She’s a junior doctor who volunteered for some shifts with Cambridge Churches Homeless Project where she met Johnny Cunningham who told her how hard it is to bring in a New Year alone in the cold. The conversations she had with Johnny stuck with Nish who believes that in this city where there is such inequality, we could and should do better. Very sadly, Johnny passed away on the streets of Cambridge later that year. He was just 63.

The Big Brunch 2019 Cambridge
Image credit: The Big Brunch

With four weeks to go to New Year’s Day 2019, Nish launched The Big Brunch. She raised £1000 through an appeal and arranged for Tesco and Waitrose to donate food. The response was immediate and overwhelming with plenty of people volunteering to help on the day while others donated food and clothes. A barber stepped up after a last minute appeal on social media so free haircuts were on offer. There was music and singing and a fabulous social atmosphere as homeless and volunteers chatted and shared a hot meal together.

The Big Brunch 2019 Cambridge
Image credit: The Big Brunch

Now another New Year’s Day is almost upon us and The Big Brunch 2020 will be happening at St Andrew the Great Church in St Andrew’s Street from 11.30am – 3pm. As well as a warm welcome and a hot meal, each homeless guest will receive a £10 Post Office voucher plus hand and foot warmers. There’ll be music and singing, haircuts and clothes, warmth and laughter.

The Big Brunch 2019 Cambridge
Image credit: The Big Brunch

Nish has created this event out of a deep compassion for the plight of our city’s homeless and she is inspired by Gregory Boyle’s words, “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe of what the poor have to carry, rather than stand in judgement of how they carry it.” She tells me that the event is as rewarding for the volunteers (many of whom have never worked with the homeless before) as it is for the guests and she’d love to see The Big Brunch replicated in other cities.

The Big Brunch 2019 Cambridge
Image credit: The Big Brunch

Here’s how you can get involved!

To volunteer to help on the day, sign up at https://bit.ly/bigbrunch2020volunteering

To make a financial donation, click here https://bit.ly/bigbrunch2020

If you’d like to donate food or clothing either in advance or on the day, please email Nish on thebigbrunchcambridge@gmail.com

The Big Brunch 2019 Cambridge
Image credit: The Big Brunch

Twitter: @brunchbig

Cambridge Beer Festival

The tents are going up on Jesus Green ….. it’s time for the 46th annual Cambridge Beer Festival which runs from 20 – 25 May.  Festival Organiser Anthony Cox downed tools to chat to me about the UK’s oldest beer festival, brought to the city by CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale).

Cambridge Beer Festival
Image credit: Cambridge Beer Festival

A core team of 30 people start to plan the Festival in December.  “We’ve got all the beer ordered by the end of March,” Anthony tells me, “and then set up and take down each last a week either side of the Festival as we build the site from scratch”.  The beer arrives several days before the Festival opens so that it can rest and settle while the site is readied to welcome around 40,000 thirsty visitors over six days.

You’ll find over 200 beers from across the UK with brewery bars, staffed by the brewers, offering keg and cask beers.  The Key Keg Bar gives a chance to compare and contrast key keg and cask beers, the same beer stored two different ways, while the International Bar showcases beers from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and America.

Cambridge Beer Festival
Image credit: Cambridge Beer Festival

But it’s not just about the beer!  The Cider Bar will feature more than 80 ciders and perries, all English and many from East Anglian producers, while the Wine and Mead Bar offers English wines in a variety of styles alongside mead, a drink made by fermenting honey and adding botanicals, from UK producers.

And you won’t go hungry either.  The CAMRA Cheese Counter has a selection of bread and cheese, scotch eggs, pork pies and pickles.  Food trucks parked up in the garden area will offer fish and chips, pizza, curry, falafel and vegetarian food, burgers, hog roast, doughnuts, cake and coffee.

 

Cambridge Beer Festival
Image credit: Cambridge Beer Festival

New for this year is the CAMRA run Learning and Discovery Centre, offering tutored beer tastings and an informal area where you can drop in, chat to the experts and pick their brains about all things beer.  The Family Tent welcomes children accompanied by a responsible adult and on the Saturday will feature a brass band, jugglers, face painting and other activities for kids.

Lunchtime sessions at the Festival are free entry and there’s a modest entry fee for evening sessions.  You pay a small deposit for your glass (glasses this year have been branded to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landings) which you can either take away with you as a memento or hand back as you leave.  Or better still, if you return your glass to the Arthur Rank Hospice stand, they will get your deposit back ….. a brilliant way of raising funds to support the Hospice’s invaluable work in the city.

Cambridge Beer Festival
Image credit: Cambridge Beer Festival

Over 400 volunteers are involved in the Festival and more are always welcome.  Volunteer roles range from helping to set up and take down the infrastructure, arranging tables and seating, manning the glass and food counters, staffing bars, stewarding and, of course, looking after all that beer!  Even just an hour or two of your time makes a real difference at this busy event.  You don’t need to be a CAMRA member to volunteer, you’ll be given full training and your reward comes in the form of food and drink.

Take a look at the website for opening times, details of the Festival beer list and more.

http://www.cambridgebeerfestival.com

David Parr House Cambridge

186 Gwydir Street looks like a typical Cambridge terraced house from the outside.  But when you walk in through the front door, you leave the 21st century behind and enter the world of Victorian decorative artist David Parr.

David Parr House Cambridge

David bought the house at auction in 1886 and lived there with his wife, Mary, and their three children.  He’d been apprenticed at the age of 17 to the Cambridge firm of artworkmen F. R. Leach & Sons and he worked for them all his life, painting grand houses and churches with designs created by luminaries of the Arts and Crafts movement, including William Morris.  After long days at work, David came home to decorate his house in the same style, painting by oil and candlelight during the evenings and creating intricate interiors in this relatively humble abode.

David Parr House Cambridge

The exquisite decoration incorporates the use of cut out stencils, through which he stippled paint, and pin prick stencil work, all with individualised repeats which bring the designs alive.  Pine doors and matchboarding are painted and grained to resemble more expensive woods.  The main bedroom boasts an early version of hot air heating.  David was bringing back ideas and sometimes left over materials from jobs he worked on to create a beautiful, unique home for his family.

David Parr House Cambridge

After David’s death in 1927, his widow continued to live in the house with grand daughter Elsie who, in turn, married and brought up her two daughters there.  The decor of the house remained unchanged through the generations but the family was very private and almost nobody knew about these wonderful interiors.  Tamsin Wimhurst first saw the house in 2009 after she put out a call for interesting spaces in Cambridge while researching for an exhibition she was organising at the Museum of Cambridge.  Elsie told Tamsin the story of her grandfather and the house, proud now to show off David Parr’s work.  After Elsie died in 2013, aged 98, Tamsin and her husband decided to buy the house to conserve and restore it.

David Parr House Cambridge

The programme of conservation and restoration has been painstaking.  Happily, David Parr had logged everything he did to the house room by room and all the changes he made, both inside and outside.  Family furniture, artefacts and textiles fill the house.  It really does have the feeling of a home where the family has just stepped out for a while.  On the day I visited, volunteers were busy landscaping and replanting the back garden as it is remembered by David Parr’s great grand daughters, both of whom still live locally.

David Parr House Cambridge

David Parr House reopens on 16 May.  For conservation reasons, tour places are limited at present as the team carefully monitors and assesses the multiple effects of visitor traffic on the painting and general fabric of the house.  The scheduled house tours for this year are now sold out but it is still possible to book a private tour.  Over the next two years, income from tours will be matched by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the proceeds will go into an endowment, the interest from which will fund a Curator post.

David Parr House Cambridge

I was absolutely captivated by David Parr House.  The care and skill that has gone in to this beautiful place, both from its creator and the team that has ensured its future, is awe-inspiring.  For more on the story of the house and the family, volunteering opportunities and tour reservations, take a look at the website.

http://www.davidparrhouse.org

Pay It Forward Vouchers Cambridge

Theresa Feetenby is a woman on a mission.  In fact, I don’t know when she sleeps!  Originally from Birmingham, this Cambridge mum of two works full time at Addenbrookes Hospital, is a Beaver Scout leader and volunteers with Cambridge 105 Radio.  And now she’s masterminding a new scheme in Cambridge … Pay It Forward Vouchers.

Pay It Forward Vouchers Cambridge

Pay It Forward Vouchers CambridgeTheresa feels compelled to find a way to help the the city’s homeless and people in need.  Like many, over the years she had given money to those begging on the streets before switching to buying food for them.  She knew of the suspended coffee scheme where people can leave money for a person in need to get a hot drink but she wanted to go beyond that and contacted Cambridge cafes to see what might work.  Theresa also particularly likes the concept of people paying forward kindness to others through this scheme.

It’s early days but at the time of writing, five cafes and two stalls in Cambridge Market have joined the project.  Early adopters include Black Cat Cafe on Mill Road, La Latina Bustaurante and Kingwraps Foodstall.  Theresa gives each business personalised vouchers and posters and publicises their involvement on social media.

Pay It Forward Vouchers Cambridge

You can then buy a voucher from the cafe or stall and either leave it there for distribution by a volunteer or take it to give directly to someone in need.  There’s advice about getting off the street printed on the back of each voucher although these vouchers are not only for the homeless.  As Theresa comments, there are many people in the city who are in need and/or vulnerably housed who can benefit from the scheme.

Several Cambridge organisations have already got behind Pay It Forward including Streetaid, who have sponsored voucher printing, Wintercomfort, Romsey Mill and Cambridge Homeless Outreach Project.  Theresa is keen to get more cafes and volunteers on board and to grow the scheme so that vouchers can be exchanged for toiletries and sanitary products.  She’s making a website, would like to create an App and hopes to sell vouchers online.

Pay It Forward Vouchers Cambridge

Things are moving quickly for Pay It Forward Vouchers so if you’d like to get involved and spread some kindness around this city of ours, keep an eye on their social media for the latest news and developments.

Facebook:    @PIFgiftvouchers

Instagram:   @pifgiftvouchers

Twitter:         @PIFgiftvouchers

 

Cambridge Literary Festival – Spring 2019

The Box Office is now open for Cambridge Literary Festival which runs from 5 – 7 April, bringing together novelists, scientists, politicians, broadcasters, campaigners and thinkers in lively conversation and engaged debate.

Cambridge Literary Festival logo

You’ll find a wealth of new fiction, world literature, memoir and more as well as a fabulous children’s programme which includes “Happy Birthday, Elmer!”, an interactive story time to celebrate everybody’s favourite multicoloured elephant.

Cambridge Literary Festival
Image credit: Chris Boland

From the New Statesman Debate, “This house believes identity politics is an impediment to progress”, to afternoon tea at the University Arms Hotel with broadcaster and author Jenni Murray, the Spring Festival has something for everyone.

For the full Festival line up and to book tickets, head to  www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com

To read more about the Cambridge Literary Festival and its founder, Cathy Moore, click here

Cambridge City Foodbank Christmas Hamper Collection

Cambridge City Foodbank opened in 2010 and helps local people, providing three days’ worth of nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to those who are referred to them in crisis.  With Christmas just around the corner, the Foodbank has launched its Christmas Hamper Collection and hopes to make up 500 hampers of quality food and products to give to families who are struggling to make ends meet.

Cambridge City Foodbank logo

Contributing to this couldn’t be easier.  Go on to the Foodbank website (details at the end of this post), register and choose one of the two hamper drop off dates.  This helps the Foodbank team with their logistical planning.  Then fill a good sized carrier bag with items from their list of suggestions.  Don’t add in any perishable or home made food and please make sure all items have a use by date of 25 December or later.  Then simply drop off your bag of goodies at the Foodbank warehouse in your registered drop-off slot.

Cambridge City Foodbank
Image: Cambridge City Foodbank

The Foodbank is, of course, supporting local people year round.  Jon Edney, Foodbank Co-ordinator, tells me that from April to September this year, there’s been a 13% increase nationally in people using foodbanks.  Here in Cambridge, the figure is a 46% increase during that period, compared to the same period last year, so the need is huge.

People can find themselves in crisis at any time for a multitude of reasons.  The Foodbank works on a voucher referral system with vouchers being issued by agencies such as Citizens Advice, housing support officers, children’s centres, health visitors, social services and some local charities.  Agencies can also help with longer term support to address issues behind the reasons for crisis.  You can exchange your voucher at your nearest Foodbank centre in the city where you’ll find a warm welcome and a chance to chat with trained volunteers.

Cambridge City Foodbank
Image: Cambridge City Foodbank

The Christmas hamper distribution arrangements are different; they are distributed through family centres rather than through the Foodbank centres.  If you are not already connected with any of the referring agencies mentioned in the paragraph above, then you can make contact about the possibility of receiving a Christmas hamper through the C3 Church at Coldham’s Lane.

Cambridge City Foodbank
Image: Cambridge City Foodbank

With the enormous increase in Foodbank use, there’s a constant need for food donations throughout the year, with collection points in supermarkets city-wide.  The Foodbank website has a list of urgently needed food items which you can also drop off at their food collection points.  Financial donations of any size, given either regularly or as one-offs, help this vital work to continue.  And maybe you could give your time …. why not consider joining the volunteer group of around 140 people who work in all sorts of roles and are the life blood of the organisation.

For more information about the work of Cambridge City Foodbank as well as details of how to get help and how to give help, check out their website.

http://www.cambridgecityfoodbank.org.uk

http://www.thec3.uk

Cambridge Literary Festival

One of the things I love most about writing for my blog and this column is the people I meet.  People who are getting on with their daily lives, have that light bulb moment and just go for it to create something wonderful in the city.  People like Cathy Moore, founder of the Cambridge Literary Festival.

Cambridge Literary Festival logo

Cathy first came to the city to read History at Newnham College and was only the second person from her Liverpool comprehensive school to make it to the University of Cambridge. She also loved English and books so after graduation, Cathy built a career in publishing before taking some time out to be with her young family.  A spell in teaching followed but Cathy returned to Cambridge and books, working part time in Waterstones and running their programme of events.  That’s where she met writer Ali Smith and as the two of them chatted about the Hay Literary Festival, they wondered why there wasn’t a similar event in Cambridge.

Cambridge Literary Festival
Image credit:  Chris Boland

Within months, Cathy had created Wordfest, doing everything herself and setting up twenty four events in three venues.  That was back in March 2003.  “There were about sixty literary festivals then”, Cathy tells me, “and now there are around four hundred in the UK, so we’re all in competition for the authors.”  Wordfest grew, events regularly sold out and initiatives like the debut writers panel made it truly a festival for writers as well as readers.  After gaining charitable status, Wordfest rebranded as Cambridge Literary Festival in 2014.  It now brings Spring and Winter festivals to the city as well as one-off events through the year and since 2017 has delivered the Wimpole History Festival in partnership with the National Trust.

These days, Cathy isn’t doing everything herself!  She and her small team have an office in Downing Place and they have strong support from patrons, media partnerships and sponsors.  A band of volunteer stewards welcomes the many thousands of festival goers and enables events to run smoothly for both authors and audiences.  More volunteers are always welcome so if you’re interested in giving your time (and enjoying some volunteer perks!), contact the team through the website.

Cambridge Literary Festival
Image credit: Chris Boland

 

Festival venues this year include several beautiful university spaces which are normally hidden from public view.  Refreshments will be available at most of these so you can grab a quick drink and a snack between events.  Heffers run a bookstall and there are author signings too.

I’m really excited for this winter’s Festival; it’s always a fun, buzzy weekend and the packed programme truly offers something for everyone, including a brand new Murder Mystery Musical from Sophie Hannah which sounds intriguing!  You’ll find details of what’s on and a booking facility through the Festival website at www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com

 

This post is part of my “New in Cambridge” column in the November issue of Velvet Magazine.  Read more on http://www.velvetmag.co.uk