Literature Cambridge

I’ve been following Literature Cambridge on social media for some time now so I was really pleased to meet Trudi Tate last week to find out more about this independent educational organisation which offers a range of study days and summer courses, open to all lovers of literature.

Reading A Room of One's Own

Literature Cambridge 2018 | Photo:
Image credit: Ian Olsson

Trudi is a Fellow and Praelector at Clare Hall, a graduate college of the University of Cambridge, and an Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of English where she also supervises graduate students.  Trudi’s passion for literature shines through as she tells me how she came to set up Literature Cambridge late in 2015, running the first week long summer school on Virginia Woolf in 2016 at Homerton College.  It was hugely successful and the programme has since gone from strength to strength.

Trudi’s aim with the residential summer courses is to offer a Cambridge style educational experience, with lectures and supervisions from senior academics and post-docs.  Every morning, there’s an hour long lecture and a small group supervision or a seminar but there’s also plenty of time to socialise and chat with fellow students, lecturers and supervisors in tea breaks and at lunchtime.

Literature Cambridge King's College
Image credit: Jeremy Peters

Afternoons offer free time to read and reflect plus there’s a programme of visits to places like King’s College, The Wren Library at Trinity College and the Fitzwilliam Museum.  All visits are led by Cambridge academics and give privileged access to places and original manuscripts not normally available to public view.

Literature Cambridge Wren Library
Image credit: Jeremy Peters
Literature Cambridge manuscript
Image credit: Jeremy Peters

Students on the summer courses range in age from 17 – 70 years, are from every walk of life and from all over the world.  They come together to share their common love of literature and to immerse themselves in it, with many students returning year on year.

Literature Cambridge afternoon tea
Image credit: Jeremy Peters

Summer courses for 2019 are based at Wolfson College and include “Virginia Woolf’s Gardens” and “Fictions of Home: Jane Austen to the Present Day”, a course which explores the idea of home in literature and loss of home through the work of contemporary refugee writers, including Vietnamese-American Viet Nguyen.

Literature Cambridge also runs a programme of study days at Stapleford Granary, a study centre for the arts and music in south Cambridge.  Taught by leading academics, upcoming days this autumn include “Reading A Room of One’s Own”, Virginia Woolf’s 1929 book about women and fiction, “Understanding King Lear” and “Remembering the First World War”, a new look at the literature of war including the poetry of Wilfred Owen and Ivor Gurney.  Trudi is currently planning a series of events with contemporary writers for 2019.

Literature Cambridge Understanding King Lear

For full details of all Literature Cambridge’s study days, summer courses and lecturers plus testimonials, which speak for themselves, from previous course participants, take a look at the website.



Bridge the Gap Cambridge

Bridge the Gap is a circular walk through the beautiful gardens of six Cambridge colleges.  Now in its 17th year and happening on Sunday 9 September, this event is a great day out for families, friends and groups of work colleagues, allowing entry to the grounds of these historic colleges, some of which are not normally open to the public, whilst raising money to support the valuable work of two local charities, Arthur Rank Hospice Charity and Romsey Mill.

Bridge the Gap Cambridge
Image credit: Sir Cam

I met with Georgina Forbes, Fundraiser for Romsey Mill, to find out more.  The action starts and finishes on Parker’s Piece where you can register from 8.30am, have a coffee and some breakfast from one of the food trucks as well as collect a backpack filled with water, fruit and goodies provided by the event’s sponsors.  You’ll also be given a brochure with a route map and information before heading out (there are three different waves of departures through the morning).

Bridge the Gap Cambridge
Image credit: Bridge the Gap

The route is approximately 5 miles long and takes in Emmanuel, Christ’s, Sidney Sussex and Trinity colleges before heading along the Backs to St Catherine’s and Pembroke colleges and then on to the Museum of Zoology which is celebrating its reopening.

There will be marshals to show you the way, Blue Badge guides in the colleges to answer your questions and the route is wheelchair and pushchair enabled.  You’ll find music along the way (think brass, folk and jazz bands) and refreshments at St Catherine’s College.  Back on Parker’s Piece, Cambridge 105 will be broadcasting from a 50 foot stage, there’ll be music courtesy of Cambridge City Brass and you might even want to join in the dancing with Cambridge Lindyhop.  You’ll also find a soft play area for kids and various competitions happening plus that all important tea tent offering home made cake.

This year’s fundraising goal is £50,000.  Thanks to the generosity of the event’s sponsors, all overheads are covered so 100% of your entry fee is shared equally between the two Cambridgeshire charities.  Arthur Rank Hospice supports people who are living with a life-limiting illness and those who need end-of-life care.  Romsey Mill is a Christian charity creating opportunities with young people, children and families, many of whom are facing significant challenges in their lives.

Bridge the Gap Cambridge
Image credit: Bridge the Gap

Around 130 volunteers make this event happen with many different roles available.  If you’d like to join them, contact for route volunteering and for volunteering on Parker’s Piece.

Bridge the Gap Cambridge
Image credit: Bridge the Gap

To take part in Bridge the Gap, you simply pre-register on the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity website (see the link below) or you can turn up at Parker’s Piece and pay on the morning.  Group tickets are available at discounted rates and children go free when accompanied by a paying adult.

Parker’s Piece, Cambridge CB1 1NA


Amelie Flammekueche Cambridge

A delicious piece of Alsace has come to Cambridge ….. to discover Amelie Flammekueche, head to The Grafton Centre, follow the signs to Food Social, look up for the yellow Citroen van and prepare to treat your tastebuds!

Amelie Flammekueche Cambridge

Amelie Flammekueche is truly a family affair with Regis Crepy (formerly chef patron of The Great House in Lavenham) in the kitchen, son Alex taking care of the business side of things, Alex’s mother Martine overseeing social media and his sister Amelie, after whom the restaurant is named, working on branding plus the look and design of the restaurant.

Amelie Flammekueche Cambridge

And I really like her concept.  It’s simple and minimal with yellow and white furniture and zinc tables.  Then there’s that Citroen H van which Alex tells me came up the escalator in six extremely heavy pieces and which operates as the bar and drinks station as well as the order point for “grab and go” take out orders.

Amelie Flammekueche CambridgeAlex and Regis discovered flammekueche (pronounced flamm-koosh) in 2012 at a restaurant in Alsace.  They loved the idea of bringing it to the UK, of revisiting it and adapting it to bring a simple, reasonably priced, high quality product to a modern market.  Alex grew up in his parents’ Suffolk restaurants and father and son have always harboured a dream of working together.  After graduating from Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland, Alex worked with Gaucho restaurants in London for three years, becoming one of its youngest managing partners and gaining valuable experience which he now brings to this new venture.

Amelie Flammekueche Cambridge

Centuries ago, bakers in Alsace would use a thin stretched piece of lightly leavened dough to test the temperature of their ovens.  Today, Amelie serves this light, crisp “fire bread” with sweet and savoury toppings.  I went for “Authentic” with creme fraiche, sliced onions, smoked bacon and Gruyere cheese, which was molten-cheese-savoury heaven!  Johnny ordered “Beetroot and Pear”, a vegetarian option with creme fraiche, sliced onions, beetroot, goat cheese, spinach, poached pear and honey.  He loved the earthy, slightly sweet flavours alongside the tang of the goat cheese.  He can’t eat onions which wasn’t a problem as each flammekueche is freshly made to order so the chef simply left the onions off.

Amelie Flammekueche Cambridge

We couldn’t resist sharing a “Red Berries” sweet flammekueche for dessert.  It came studded with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, topped off with chocolate sauce, ice cream and torn mint leaves.  If reading these words is making you hungry (and I’ve had to have a snack in the middle of writing this piece!), I’ll just tell you that as well as the flammekueche main event, there’s a range of starters and puddings plus a children’s menu and a drinks menu which includes a signature beer, Amelie Golden Ale, from Nethergate Brewery in Suffolk.

Amelie Flammekueche Cambridge

Alex is delighted to open Amelie Flammekueche in the newly renovated Grafton Centre with its cosmopolitan feel and its busy footfall.  And it’s wonderful to see an indie restaurant opening there, bringing a fresh and exciting vibe to the first floor Food Social area.  We’ll be back soon ….. there’s a menu to work through and I’ve got my eye on the “Pulled Pork” flammekueche.  Regis tells me the pork is cooked low and slow for at least 24 hours …..

The Grafton Centre, Cambridge CB1 1PS


Hidden gems in Cambridge

Somehow Cambridge feels a little bit different in August … the rhythm of the place changes while the hazy summer days and nights give us the chance to explore all the city has to offer.  If you venture slightly off the beaten track, there are hidden gems to discover.  I’d like to share some of my favourites with you here.

Hidden Rooms Cambridge
Hidden Rooms Cocktail Lounge

There’s a rather beautiful neo-classical building on Jesus Lane which was originally built as a Victorian Turkish baths.  Behind a plain black door, down in the basement, you’ll find Hidden Rooms Cocktail Lounge where the lights are dim and the vibe is classy but chilled.  There’s an extensive menu of classic cocktails alongside wine and beer with nuts and crisps to snack on.  The Events Room hosts jazz gigs on Thursday nights, speed dating sessions on Wednesdays and Bachata dance classes on Tuesday evenings.  I’d recommend making an advance reservation for your booth area in the table service Cocktail Lounge.  And the Hidden Rooms team of expert bartenders will be sharing some of their secrets and tips in free cocktail making lessons during Cambridge Cocktail Weekend at the Corn Exchange from 24 – 26 August.

Restaurant Twenty-Two CambridgeMagic is happening in the kitchen at Restaurant Twenty Two on Chesterton Road, just north of Midsummer Common.  Chef Sam Carter and Alexandra Olivier, his partner in life and business, have refurbished this intimate space and offer creative modern British food with a twist, using seasonal ingredients from local suppliers.  You’ll find seven and five course tasting menus alongside a la carte and a lunch menu which is exceptional value at £20 for three courses.  Sam creates delectable flavours and textures in each dish and every plate of his food is a feast for the eyes too.  It’s fine dining but Restaurant Twenty Two is not stuffy or starchy … it has a relaxed atmosphere and has quickly garnered an enthusiastic East Anglian fan base while also receiving rave reviews in the national press, so do book a table in advance.  Your taste buds will thank you for it!

Cambridge Cookery School
Image credit: Cambridge Cookery

Over at the award winning Cambridge Cookery School in Homerton Gardens, you’ll find a light, bright café serving fresh seasonal dishes with ingredients sourced mainly from a small group of local, sustainable, high welfare producers.  The décor, food and wine reflect owner Tine Roche’s Scandinavian heritage and her deep love of Italy.  Try the homemade bread and pastries for breakfast, brunch or at lunchtime, when the counter offers colourful grain based salads, filled focaccia and open sandwiches on rye bread.  On Friday and Saturday evenings, relax on the peaceful, sunny terrace with wine, cocktails and tapas or make sure to book ahead for the popular Saturday night Bistro set menu.


Don’t miss …..

Savino’s coffee shop, tucked away in Emmanuel Street.  A small yet perfectly formed family run Italian café serving Illy coffee, homemade cakes, soups, panini and salads.

Stem + Glory restaurant at Mitcham’s Corner.  Award winning vegan food with a weekday fast service lunch to eat in or take away plus table service a la carte menu for lunch and dinner.

The University Centre Wine Bar in Granta Place.  Open to the public and housed in one of Cambridge’s finest examples of brutalist architecture, with views over the River Cam, it serves wine, beer and spirits as well as simple charcuterie and cheese boards.


This post is an edited version of  “The Cambridge Scene”,  my column in the August edition of Eastlife Magazine.  See more on






What’s on in August

Here’s the What’s On listing for August!  It’s full of all sorts of events that come to my attention and I’ll update it through the month so do check back when you can.

King's College Cambridge
King’s College with its 200 year old horse chestnut tree

1 – 25th    Cambridge Shakespeare Festival.  Open air Shakespeare plays in College gardens.   Macbeth/The Comedy of Errors/Pericles/Twelfth Night.

1 – 31st    Summer at the Museums.  Fun family days out for all ages.  Making and creating, hands-on history and interactive science.  Low cost or free.

2 – 5th    Cambridge Folk Festival.  Cherry Hinton Hall.

3 – 5th    7pm  Movies @ Madingley.  Breakfast at Tiffany’s/Spectre/La La Land.  Madingley Hall Gardens, CB23.  Open air cinema with barbecue and bar.

5th    1 – 4 pm  Riverside Tea Garden at The Old Pumping Station.

5th    2 – 5pm  Open Gardens.  Christ’s College Fellows’ Garden, St Andrew’s Street.  Teas, homemade cake and plants for sale.  In aid of British Red Cross.

6th    11am – 3pm  Tall Towers!  Great St Mary’s Church.  A tall tower trail and tower building activities for families.  Drop in.

7 – 10th    Cookery courses (half day)  including Perfect Pasta for Kids, Italian for Teens, Luxury Picnic Food for Teens, Summer Desserts for Children, Parent and Child French Baking.  Cambridge Cookery School, Homerton Gardens, Purbeck Road, CB2.

11 – 28th  Phenomena.  Art exhibition by Sama Soltani.  The Locker Cafe, King Street.

12th    2 – 5pm  Open Gardens.  Clare College Fellows’ Garden, Queens Road.  Teas, homemade cake and plants for sale.  In aid of British Red Cross.

13th    11am – 3pm  Flying High!  Great St Mary’s Church.  Discovering flying creatures and craft activities for families.  Drop in.

17th    6.30 – 10pm  Summer Night Market and outdoor cinema (Paddington 2 and The Greatest Showman).  Market Square.

19th  3 – 5pm  Jazz on Jesus Green.  ACE Jazz Trio and Sax.  Free entry.

20th    11am – 3pm  Cambridge Market Square Stories!  Great St Mary’s Church.  Complete the market square stories trail and craft activities for families.  Drop in.

23rd    7pm  Chinese Music Concert – Flowing Water.  Emmanuel United Reformed Church, CB2.

24 – 26th   Cambridge Cocktail Weekend 2018.  Corn Exchange.

24 – 27th    6pm  Movies on the Meadows.  Open air cinema on Grantchester Meadows.

25th    10.45am  Cambridgeshire Cycling Challenge.  Celebrate 25 years of Anglia Ruskin University by cycling from Peterborough to Cambridge whilst raising money for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.  Entry deadline 17th August.

30 – 31st    Oktoberfest Beer Festival.  Jesus Green.

Linden tree Cambridge
Lime scented blossom on the linden trees along the tow path

Cambridge Dragon Boat Festival

Houseboats, rowing boats, riverboats, punts ….. all every day traffic on the River Cam.  On Saturday 8 September, they’ll be joined for one day only by a slightly different type of vessel as the Cambridge Dragon Boat Festival returns to the city.

Dragon boats on the Cam
Image credit: Vanessa Barton Photography

More than 40 teams of up to 10 people each – groups of friends, sports clubs and companies – will battle it out along a 200m course at Ditton Meadows, Fen Ditton.  Team spirit and enthusiasm are essential, previous experience of dragon boat racing is not.  Each team is guaranteed a minimum of three races and race organisers, Gable Events, supply the 30′ dragon boats, all the necessary racing equipment and qualified helms to steer a straight course.

Dragon boat racing on the Cam
Image credit: Vanessa Barton Photography

Carol Lester of Gable Events tells me that dragon boat racing originated in China over 2000 years ago.  Legend has it that poet Qu Yuan was cast out by the government and, in his devastation, jumped into a river.  He was revered by the people and fishermen raced out to save him, beating their drums and splashing their oars to keep fish and evil spirits away from him, but to no avail.

Today, dragon boat racing takes place around the world and is a popular group/teambuilding activity.  The dragon heads on the boats symbolise a warding off of evil spirits while a drummer beats out a pulsing rhythm to help pace and synchronise the paddlers’ strokes.

Dragon boat racing on the Cam
Image credit: Vanessa Barton Photography

Dragon boat racing is also a terrific spectator sport.  There’s free parking and free access to Fen Ditton Meadow from where you can see all the action on the water.  There’ll be plenty of entertainment on the riverbank with children’s activities, inflatables, food trucks, a bar, Chinese lion dancing and tai chi demonstrations.

Now in its 14th year, the Cambridge Dragon Boat Festival raises money for Addenbrookes Charitable Trust, to provide technology, specialist services, research and extra comforts for patients at Addenbrookes and the Rosie Maternity Hospital, over and above what would be possible through NHS funding alone.  Last year, the Festival raised the amazing sum of £20,000.  There’s still time to get a team together and be part of this.  For more details, including information on how to enter a team, check out these websites.

Ditton Meadows, Feb Ditton, Cambridge CB5 8ST

The Tasting Room Cambridge

Now I’ll be honest, I don’t have many vices and I’m not a big drinker but a long cold gin and tonic is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures in life.  And thanks to the recent rise of the craft gin movement, there’s a gin for every palate and every mood, whether it’s pink (from local firm Pinkster, accessorised with raspberry and mint), light and floral (my G&T at a restaurant last weekend was adorned with flower petals), herby (with a charred rosemary twig, that’s The Botanist G&T at the Cambridge Union Bar) or lavishly garlanded with enough fruit to give Carmen Miranda a run for her money (that was just absurd, from a hotel bar on the Suffolk coast).

The Tasting Room Cambridge

So when a friend told me there’s a new gin in town, I scurried down to Hope Street Yard, off Mill Road, to meet John Saul, General Manager at English Spirit Distillery, who have just opened their first tiny but beautiful bricks and mortar shop in this pretty, eclectic enclave.

The Tasting Room Cambridge

While we sipped a gin and tonic, John told me the story of how the business came into being nine years ago.  Founder, Dr John Walters, is a biochemist from Oxford.  Listening to a Radio 4 programme, he heard an “expert” say that it’s impossible to make eau de vie in this country.  Spurred on by the challenge, John built a still and made an eau de vie that was really good.  Better, in fact, than the expensive eau de vie sitting in his drinks cabinet.

The Tasting Room CambridgeToday, English Spirit Distillery’s range includes gins, for which they make their own vodka base from sugar beet, to be assured of quality and provenance.  There’s a Cucumber Spirit which contains no juniper and a digestif Sambuca, which is distilled three times.  John tells me it’s too fine to do the coffee bean/flame thing!  Rum is distilled from sugar cane molasses while 1.2 tonnes of apples from the Sandringham Estate make just 90 bottles of apple brandy.  A single malt spirit is flavoured in the still and distilled five times, making it super smooth with layers of flavour.  Gin based fruit liqueurs are distilled and also macerated with fruit while their top seller, Toffee Vodka liqueur, is best enjoyed over ice or ice cream.

The Tasting Room Cambridge

John has lived around Mill Road with his wife, Eloise, and their family for many years.  They love the area with its sense of community and will be holding informal, laid back acoustic mic nights in Hope Street Yard with future plans for gigs, craft markets and food trucks.  The Tasting Room is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  At the moment you can have a free tasting and buy bottles while they wait for a bar licence to come through.

The Tasting Room Cambridge

But back to the gin … we sat in the sunshine outside the shop, chatting to John and Eloise and sipping the limited edition Hope Gin, which is distilled especially for this new Cambridge venture.  It’s an aromatic London Dry gin, flavoured with bergamot oil, orange zest, rose petals, coriander, bay leaf and juniper and it’s just delicious.  I reckon Earl Grey himself would have approved!

Unit 1, Hope Street Yard, Cambridge CB1 3NA