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

Walking Tour of Cambridge

Who was Hobson and why is Hobson’s choice no choice at all?  What’s a chronophage and where will you find one??

These questions and many more were answered when we joined a Cambridge Highlights Tour which, at 1.5 hours long, is perfect for visitors to Cambridge or for anyone who is pushed for time but wants to take in the iconic sights while picking up some history and anecdotes along the way.  Led by a qualified Blue Badge Guide, tours start from the Visit Cambridge HQ in The Guildhall.

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The Corpus Clock

We stopped at the Cavendish Laboratory where James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA in 1953 and The Eagle pub, just around the corner, the scene of their subsequent celebrations.  The pub still serves DNA ale today in honour of their groundbreaking discovery.  We headed into St Bene’t’s Church with its Saxon tower and then checked out the Corpus Clock with its slightly sinister chronophage, a grasshopper which seems to eat up time.  Walking on through the historic streets, we passed many colleges and University buildings including Great St. Mary’s, the University church.  You might want to return here once the tour is over – if you’re feeling energetic enough to climb the 123 steps to the top of the tower, they say you’ll be rewarded (on a clear day!) with views across our very flat East Anglian landscape to Ely Cathedral.

Great St Mary's
Great St. Mary’s Church

Heading out of the lunchtime hustle and bustle into the tranquillity of Pembroke College, founded in 1347, our guide explained the University’s collegiate system as well as Pembroke’s history.  Its beautiful chapel was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was consecrated in 1665.  In here, you’ll find the Cross of Migrants made by carpenter Francesco Tuccio from the timbers of a refugee boat that crossed the Mediterranean to the island of Lampedusa in 2016.  It’s a moving reminder of and a memorial to those lost in the recent migrant crisis.

Cross of Migrants
The Cross of Migrants

I have to say that these Blue Badge Guides really know their stuff.  They go through nine months of training and have to pass four exams.   What’s more, only Blue Badge Guides can take groups into the University of Cambridge colleges and buildings.  Our guide, Mary, was so knowledgeable and gave us lots of historical facts and anecdotes but with humour and a deftness that meant we never felt we were being lectured.

A variety of tours are on offer through Visit Cambridge.  If you’re really on a tight schedule, you could opt for the Essential Cambridge tour which takes just 60 minutes.  More specialist tours include Kings College and “The Backs”, The Parker Library at Corpus Christi College and The Fitzwilliam Museum.  They’re even offering Halloween Ghost Tours at the end of this month – scary but fun and nobody will mind if you turn up in fancy dress!  Details of all these and the full programme, along with a booking facility, are on the Visit Cambridge and Beyond website.

Senate House
Senate House

And as for “Who was Hobson?” ….. you’ll have to go on the tour to find out!!

http://www.visitcambridge.org

Cambridge Visitor Information Centre, The Guildhall, Market Square, Cambridge CB2 3QJ

We enjoyed this Cambridge Highlights Tour as guests of Visit Cambridge and Beyond.

 

 

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

 

 

Apple Day at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

The old apple tree at the end of our garden was laden with fruit when we moved into our house two years ago.  So much so that we put big bowls of the delicious, sweet apples at our gate for passers by to help themselves.  But we had no idea what variety these apples were and would still be none the wiser if it were not for the Cambridge University Botanic Garden’s Apple day, a fabulous celebration of all things appley, which is happening again on Sunday 22 October.

People apple tasting
Image credit: Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Will Greenfield

There’s something for everyone at this event.  Over two dozen varieties of locally grown apples will be available for tasting and you can buy your favourites.  Experts will be on hand to advise you on apple cultivation – what to grow, how to plant and how to prune for a bumper crop.  A marquee on the Main Lawn will be full of locally produced edibles and there will also be a wide choice of refreshments from a variety of food trucks and the Garden Cafe, which will offer plenty of apple themed dishes alongside its normal menu.

Experts from the East of England Apples and Orchards Project will offer an apple identification service so if you have a mystery tree in your garden, just bring along two or three apples, ideally with a leaf and stalk attached to help with identification.  Who knows, you may bring a lost heritage variety to light!

Apples in a box
Image credit: Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Will Greenfield

Younger visitors will be able to get creative with craft activities led by local paper cut artist Vanessa Stone and Cambridge Sustainable Food.  There will be mini gardens to visit and mini lawn mowers to play on plus live music on the Main Lawn as well as a performance from the Cambridge Morris Men.  Tour guides will lead free specialist seasonal garden tours which you can sign up for on the day.

For Apple Day, you can book tickets in advance, either online or at the Ticket Office, the advantage being that you get fast track entry.  But tickets will also be available on the day at The Ticket office and under 16s get in free!  I can testify that the forty acre Botanic Garden, which is home to one of the region’s largest tree collections, is a magical place in every season, a really peaceful oasis in a busy city so for future visits, you might like to become a Friend of the Garden – membership offers you free access, regular updates and exclusive events.

Autumn Botanic Garden
Image credit: Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Will Greenfield

And as for our mystery apple tree ….. the experts identified it as Laxton’s Superb, a late Victorian dessert apple dating back to 1897.  It’s nice to think that we have our own little piece of appley heritage at the end of the garden!

http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk

1 Brookside, Cambridge CB2 1JE

Feed the 1000 at the Pumpkin Festival

Now I love to cook.  Pottering around my kitchen makes me really happy.   But catering for more than about ten people makes me feel a little bit panicky, so I take my hat off to Cambridge Sustainable Food who are teaming up with Cambridge Foodcycle to feed a thousand, yes A THOUSAND, people from surplus food that might otherwise have been thrown away.  This amazing event is happening on Friday 20 October outside Sainsbury’s in Brooks Road and is part of the Sainsbury’s backed “Waste Less, Save More” campaign which aims to raise awareness of food waste issues.  All are welcome to join in, meet the incredible team of cooks and enjoy the free food.

Cambridge Sustainable Foods Logo
Image credit: Cambridge Sustainable Food

Feed the 1000 launches the third Cambridge Pumpkin Festival, a city wide celebration of food and autumn.  Events include a Vegan Pumpkin Feast at Arjuna on Mill Road, a children’s cake decorating workshop at lifestyle cafe Co. in Cherry Hinton, a pumpkin picnic, cookery workshops and Dinner in the Dark, a charity feast with extra puddings for the best fancy dress!  Restaurants and cafes across the city will be offering seasonal pumpkin based dishes.

Disco soup pic
Image credit: Cambridge Sustainable Food

Children will love the Kids’ Disco Soup event, to be held at St Andrew’s Church Hall on 23 October.  Here’s a chance for them to chop vegetables which would otherwise have been wasted, cook them into a delicious soup and eat the fruits of their labours together while a DJ takes care of the music so that everyone can throw some shapes on the dance floor!  Sam Dyer, Food Partnership Co-ordinator at Cambridge Sustainable Food, tells me that Disco Soup is now an international phenomenon, part of a worldwide movement to inspire action against food waste.

Many of the Pumpkin Festival events are free.  If you’d like to get involved as a volunteer, there’s more information on the website.

Farmers Market pic
Image credit: Cambridge Sustainable Food

The Pumpkin Festival will draw to a close on 28 October with a Farmers’ Market (held in conjunction with Thirsty) at the Museum of Technology.  Here you will meet local producers and suppliers, sample their wares and enjoy plenty of free activities including apple pressing and bike powered smoothie making.  It’ll be a fitting end to a week which will leave us a bit more thoughtful about the ways we can minimise our food waste, enjoy a healthy and sustainable diet and support our wonderful city’s sustainable food economy.  And we’ll also have had a lot of fun celebrating all things pumpkiny!!

http://www.cambridgesustainablefood.org

http://www.cambridgepumpkinfestival.org.uk

http://www.foodcycle.org.uk/location/cambridge

 

Cambridge Gin Laboratory

Now I’m not much of a scientist but this is my kind of lab!

Frontage 2

Recently moved to new premises in a stunning building in Green Street, The Gin Laboratory is “an interactive space, dedicated to the appreciation of gin”.  It’s operated by husband and wife team, William and Lucy Lowe, who own the Grantchester based Cambridge Distillery.  William is the Master Distiller while Lucy deals with branding and marketing, assisted by their labrador, Darcy, as brand ambassador (ambassadog?!)

The ground floor houses a shop where you can choose from their range of award winning gins.  As well as a Cambridge Dry Gin, which is available year round, twice each year Will creates a seasonal gin, distilled with locally grown and foraged botanicals.

Cabinet 2

Two other gins particularly caught my eye.  Anty Gin is an innovation that resulted from a joint venture with Copenhagen based Nordic Food Lab.  Each bottle contains the essence of around sixty two red wood ants, alongside flavours of wild springtime botanicals.  Then there is Truffle Gin, flavoured with white truffle from Alba.  Distilled in very small quantities, they tell me this is excellent served over ice as a digestif.

Gin jarsIf you’d rather go slightly off more off piste, you can custom blend your own gin, creating a bespoke spirit from a selection of botanical distillates offering flavours such as rose petal, orange with grapefruit or cardamon.

Other rooms in the building include The Classroom, where you can boost your gin know-how with tasting masterclasses and The Tasting Lounge, where you can sample a flight of gins, order from the gin cocktail menu and have your own blend of coffee ground to order from a selection of speciality beans.  The Study on the top floor is a private hire space for groups who’d like to enjoy any of the tasting packages or maybe arrange a more bespoke gin experience.

 

Finally, if you’ve blended your own unique gin and things are a little hazy after all that tasting, the Laboratory helpfully keeps your personal recipe on file for future reference.

http://www.cambridgeginlab.co.uk

10 Green Street, Cambridge CB2 3JX

 

Raise your voices!

Where do you like to do it?  In the shower??  In your car???

Singing, I mean!!

There’s world class music happening all the time here in Cambridge but there are also plenty of singing events and choirs that welcome all-comers, with no audition and no music reading skills required.  All that’s needed is your desire to join your voice with others, even if you aren’t convinced that voice is very good!  Here are details of a couple of fun vocal workshops coming up soon.

“Bassics” is an afternoon workshop for men’s voices, be they tenor, baritone or bass, happening on Saturday 28 October at The Boathouse, Chesterton Road.  Composer and choir leader Roger Jackson says he will introduce you to your voice and show you how to get the most out of it.  Roger is a great teacher who also leads a community a cappella choir, “Sing”, which meets on Tuesday evenings at The Polonia Club, Chesterton Road.  You can check out details of “Bassics” and the choir on http://www.sing.co.uk  This was the first choir I joined when I moved to the city.  I hadn’t sung for many years but it wasn’t long before I got my vocal mojo back, whilst making new friends along the way.

If jazz and groove are more your thing, there’s a Jazz Choir Workshop on Saturday 18 November at St Matthew’s Primary School, Norfolk Street.  A Cambridge Jazz Festival event, this workshop will be led by jazz composer and educationalist Pete Churchill and The London Vocal Project, one of the country’s leading contemporary vocal ensembles.  Participants will go on to perform in The London Vocal Project concert at St Andrew’s Baptist Church, St Andrew’s Street, later that evening.  I joined an LVP workshop a couple of years ago and it was just joyous.  The style of music and singing were new to me and it was a revelation!  You can get further details of this event on http://www.cambridgejazzfestival.info/london-vocal-project-workshop.

Singing is a wonderful thing.  It lowers stress levels, releases loads of feel-good endorphins, boosts your immune system and even improves your posture.  To that I would add that you will meet all sorts of interesting people and experience the sheer joy of making music together.  So go on, don’t be shy, get those vocal chords humming and raise your voice!