Tag Archives: cambridge

Full of festivals

Secret Garden Party Pirate Ship

It struck me today that Cambridge, in particular, overflows with festivals. Whatever your hyperspecialised desire, there is probably a festival that will include it in this town. I just got an email from the Food and Drink festival about their fundraising quiz, where you go and drink wine and eat cheese and try and answer insanely specialist food and drink questions in one of the beautiful medieval college halls. Worth doing it for the architecture alone, which is frankly wasted on undergraduates.

The image above of dawn breaking over a pirate ship is from the Secret Garden Party. It’s a kind of English-country-house-themed tiny Burning Man, part music festival, part theatre event that takes place over four days in the grounds of a Georgian country house outside the city.

The University culture means that more cerebral festivals are strong – we’re having a Darwin Festival in July to celebrate the anniversary, and there is always the Festival of Ideas in November, to mop up anything intelligent that hasn’t been covered to death earlier in the year. Also the science festival starts this weekend under the auspices of the university, which deliciously has guidance on some events “Warning, loud bangs”. And for grown ups we can “join the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, Professor David Spiegelhalter as he discusses ‘Statistics: can we sex them up without dumbing them down’. ” Telephone booking is now open.

A particular favourite is the Shakespeare festival – it takes place in July in various college gardens, and is again worth it as much for the architecture as the acting, although the standard is fairly high.

Edit: I forgot Cambridge Word Fest, which is booking now for April with a cornucopia of literary events and workshops.

Then there is of course all the music, so much music. The Folk festival, the Summer Music festival, the Rock fest (in association with a beer festival, naturally) and on. Put out more flags, it’s going to be a beautiful year.

folk-festival-imagesImages of the Folk festival by Arkadyevna on Flickr
If I’ve left any out of my list please do let me know.
Science Festival 9-22nd March – Science fun for adults and families
Cambridge Word Fest 23-26th April – Book events and writing workshops for all genres
Cambridge Super8 Festival 29th April – 2nd May
Cambridge Beer Festival 18-23rd May – Real Ale drinking
Strawberry Fair 6th June – Free festival of music, theatre, arts and crafts
Cambridge Comedy Festival 8-14th June – Live Comedy
Cambridge Shakespeare Festival June-July dates TBC  – open air shakespeare in college gardens
Pink Festival 09 date TBC – Gay open air music festival
Darwin Festival 5th – 10th July – philosophy, literature, history, theology art and music arising from the life of Darwin
Cambridge Fringe Festival 16 July – 2nd Aug – open access performance
Cambridge Summer Music Festival 17 July – 8th Aug 09 – world class classical music
Secret Garden Party 23rd – 26th July – music theatre performance camping
Cambridge Folk Festival 30th July – 2nd August 09 – world class folk music
Cambridge Rock Festival 6-9th August – Rawk and Beer
Cambridge Film Festival 17-27th September 09 (submissions open 1st March)
Festival of Ideas 21st Oct – 3rd Nov – explore more about the society we live in
Cambridge Music Festival 8-29th Nov – Serious classical music trienniale, commissions new work
flags_and_skyNB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Birds Eye View is coming to Cambridge

Still from Love you more short filmBirds Eye View will be fetching up at the Picture House Cambridge on Sunday 8th March as part of International Womens Day with a programme of interesting short films by women directors. Not many people in this country know there is an international womens day – it’s not something we think about so much here, but the fact is that only 7% of film directors in the UK are women, and Birds Eye View is doing great work in supporting more coming through and showing great work by women from around the world.

I’ve been to a few Birds Eye View events and they are always thought provoking and high quality. Have a look at the shorts programme here. They are combining it with talks and a networking event, with people from local places like Wysing and the Cambridge Super 8 film festival.

See BEV’s listing here and book tickets here.


International Womens Day at Birds Eye View
Cambridge Picture House
38-39 St Andrew’s Street
Cambridge CB2 3AR
Tel: 0871 704 2050
Top picture from Love You More, directed by Sam Taylor-Wood
NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

A summer evening dancing

Totally outside the scope of this blog, in that it’s not homegrown in East Anglia and it’s not available by the weekend, but there’s one more night of the Richard Alston Dance Company at the Cambridge Arts theatre tonight. It is contemporary dance, which may make your mind glaze over and your eyes cross involuntarily, but if it doesn’t…

The first piece is based on the music of Hoagy Carmichael, loose, swinging 30’s jazz, all the girls in printed silk dresses, all the chaps in white shirts and tailored beige trousers, just full of sunshine and flirting and summer evenings by the river. The perfect antidote to damp cold East Anglia, which is suffering from a distinct lack of summer right now.


Cambridge Arts Theatre, 6 St Edwards passage cambridge CB2 Box office 01223 503 333

Hidden Art in Cambridge


The entrance to Kettles Yard.

Kettle’s Yard looks like a nice modern gallery from the street. They generally have interesting art exhibitions, and the quality of light is the gallery is lovely. So far so good, an ornament to Cambridge.

A while back, after visiting, I followed a sign out the back to the house at Kettles Yard, and fell down a rabbithole into somewhere extraordinary. 

Like all the best private houses turned museums, you have to knock at the door, and a kindly little old lady opens and settles you in, pops your bag in a cupboard and invites you to wander wherever you like, sit in the chairs, read the books. Then you are let loose into this lovely place. Originally four cottages, they were knocked together in the fifties to make one large house, open yet higgledy piggledy, full of light and wonderful objects.

The atmosphere is comfortable but informal. People really do sit in the comfortable armchairs and read, wander and chat. There are concerts there, the occasional talk. I left wanting to know more about who had put together such a wonderful home and then offered it up to the university.

It turns out Jim Ede trained as a painter and became assistant curator at the Tate in the 1930’s. He championed modern art, got to know everyone in the field, visited Brancusi’s studio in Paris, was a key part of it all. He became dissillusioned with the conservatism of management and about 1936 moved to Tangiers, where he built an early minimalist house, travelled a lot with his wife and continued to collect his favourite painters.

In 1956 he and Helen moved back to Cambridge, where he had grown up, and converted the houses and filled them with art and interesting objects. They ran an open house every afternoon, so people could knock on the door and he’d show them round (legend has it he even lent paintings for students to hang in their rooms during term time). Eventually they gave the house and its contents to the University of Cambridge, so that people could continue to enjoy it long after they were gone, and moved on to Edinburgh to start the next stage of their lives.

The upshot is that this warm and welcoming space is still open, up the only hill in Cambridge, and it’s a perfect place to spend some time of an afternoon – being surrounded by so much beauty must be good for the soul. Artists represented include Ben Nicholson, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Constantin Brancusi and Joan Miró, but that is only selected highlights.

Another nice thing is the natural objects – a basket of rounded pebbles arranged as a gradient from grey to white, the wooden cider press screw that is several hundred years old and reads as a perfect plinth, a magnifying lens hanging in front of the house plants.

Go seek out this quiet gem. Knock on the door any afternoon except Mondays. http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/

Castle Street, Cambridge CB3 0AQ UK

telephone: +44 (0)1223 352124


Pebble Spiral Kettle's Yard
Magnifying lens


Museum entrance by Andy Field
Museum interiors from Kettle’s Yard website   
Spiral of Pebbles by Ayres no graces   
Lens photograph by Major Clanger   

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.