A few of my favourite things

One of my favourite events of the year is the Cambridge Open Studios in July, where local artists of every genre open up their studios for the public to visit and see their work. Open Studios members also host other events throughout the year and the website contains details of several local artists – so you can contact them directly all year round.

I have visited a number of the artists’ studios over the years and there are plenty of others I am yet to see. But with Christmas (sorry!) not too far away and people thinking about gifts for their loved ones, I thought I would share some of my favourites…

 

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Selection of contemporary bangles, by Birgitte Bruun.

 

Birgitte Bruun is a Danish born jeweller who makes some beautiful pieces using a range of stones, metals and techniques. Her jewellery has a really contemporary feel and I particularly like her bangles, including the beautiful opal cuff in the picture below – the perfect gift for someone with an October birthday (though I’m probably better suited to an Aquamarine gemstone myself…) . I visited her studio a couple of months ago when buying a birthday present for a friend and all her pieces were so lovely it took a long time to decide what to buy. If you’d like to see some of Birgitte’s jewellery you can arrange a visit to her studio via her website, or you can catch her on 2nd December at Mill Road Winter Fair – where she will be hosting a pop-up stall at the Makers Gallery in Hope Street Yard.

 

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Opal cuff, by Birgitte Bruun.

 

Agnes Asselin uses textiles to create pictures as well as jewellery and other accessories. These are colourful pieces and mostly African inspired, with designs including people and a range of animals. Last year I visited her studio and bought the giraffe in the photo below – I think he’s going to need a friend at some point so will no doubt be paying another visit to the studio soon. Agnes will be opening her studio (just a three-minute walk from Mill Road) on 2nd December for Mill Road Winter Fair.

 

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Giraffe by Agnes Asselin.

 

Sarah Went makes beautiful ceramics. I’m yet to visit her studio myself, but her designs look like they are just what I want in my kitchen. I bought a handmade ceramic butter dish – which I adore – at an independent craft fair a couple of years ago, but having seen pictures of Sarah’s I have now decided that you can never have too many butter dishes… If you too would like to see some of Sarah’s ceramics, she will be opening her studio as part of Mill Road Winter Fair.

There are Christmas Open Studios events on throughout December, with Birgitte, Agnes and Sarah all displaying their work on 2nd December (at the Mill Road Winter Fair and nearby studios) as well as many other local artists and creators whose designs are well worth a look during the month; and if you can’t quite find what you’re looking for, it’s worth noting that most artists will take commissions. If Mr Mill Road happens upon this blog post then he could well save himself a lot of time and stress when it comes to choosing Christmas presents. ūüėČ

 

Commoners Comedy

I had no idea the Cornerhouse pub did comedy nights, but I met organiser Ali Warwood when we were both judging the annual Bake Off competition at The Dobblers back in May. Now I like to think I can get most things I want or need on Mill Road, but comedy nights are sadly not one of them – so in much need of a night out, Mr Mill Road and I decided to pop along to the Commoners Comedy night on 11th June…

Commoners ComedyThe Cornerhouse is just over a ten minute walk from Mill Road and the pub was just as I remembered (it had been a while since my last visit), with lots of friendly and familiar faces. Most of the seats were taken when we arrived and people were eagerly awaiting the start, but we still managed to get ourselves a spot that we figured wasn’t quite close enough to the front to risk being picked on by the comedians – though it turned out we weren’t quite far enough front the front… thanks Ali! ūüėČ

There had been a couple of last minute changes to the advertised line-up, but there were still six comedians on the bill and we were not disappointed. Trev Tokabi‘s observations on our cultural idiosyncrasies were pure genius – a lot of comedy is observational, but Trev’s delivery is perfectly timed and the more stupid he made us look the more we laughed! Jamie Green (who compere’s the Wise Crack Comedy nights in Cambridge) was hilarious, and Candy Gigi was just brilliantly odd! Sean Cannon, Nigel Lovell and headline act Jenny Collier all had us laughing out loud too. But a special mention must go to Ali herself – she organised the whole event and also brilliantly compered the evening and made everyone feel welcome.

If you fancy a night of comedy – or just a night with a difference – then I highly recommend going along to one of the Commoners Comedy nights. They’re on the second Thursday of each month and usually run from 7:30pm until half past ten. If the comedy’s not your thing though, it just so happens happy hour at the Cornerhouse is currently from 7-8pm, and if comedy is particularly your thing then why not get along to one of the Commoners Comedy Open Mic nights (on the last Sunday of each month).

COMMONERS COMEDY РThursday 9th July, The Cornerhouse CB5 8JE. 7:30-10:30pm, tickets £3 adv / £5 on the door. Full details and line up here.

Veggie Pub Grub Pop Up!

There’s certainly a foodie vibe going on around Cambridge the moment, as demonstrated by the number of supperclubs and food-related events happening locally and new eateries opening across the City. Many different tastes and cuisines are catered for, and now there’s a new pop up in town – the Veggie Pub Grub Pop Up!

Veggie Pub Grub Pop UpThis new venture is the brainchild of Sam Dyer and Jennie Debenham, both known locally for their love of vegan food. Starting Monday 24th February, the pop up will run for six weeks at the Alexandra Arms on Gwydir Street, on Monday and Tuesday evenings from 6-9pm. The menu promises a whole host of vegetarian and vegan food delights, as well as gluten-free options.¬† Sam and Jennie are trying to source their food locally, including having their bread created for them by Bread On A Bike. You can just turn up on the night, but word is already spreading fast so it’s advisable to book in advance – just call The Alex on (01223) 324448.

Famed locally for her delicious vegan cupcakes, Sam is no stranger to the local food scene – she has run her own catering business, Mouth Music, as well as the kitchen at Arjuna on Mill Road, she has supplied food to hungry hordes of volunteers over the years at events such as Strawberry Fair and has also been part of the team behind the Wild Thyme Community Cafe. Jennie is also known for her food exploits and created the Liberated Feast – a vegan banquet that sources food from surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste (look out for the next one on 6th April!).

More information about Sam and Jennie’s menu will be revealed on their facebook page later this week, but I was lucky enough to hear a sneak preview yesterday and can tell you that it is going to be delicious – I’m not even a veggie, but my mouth was watering when I heard about the dishes planned for the menu! Right, I’m off to book a table… .

Sam & Jennie’s Veggie Pub Grub Pop Up
Monday & Tuesday evenings, 6-9pm (runs Mon 24th February – Tuesday 25th March)
The Alexandra Arms, 22-24 Gwydir Street CB1 2LL. Tel: (01223) 324448

Mill Road Winter Fair

shoplocalsmallbusiness satToday is Small Business Saturday, Shop Local Saturday and also of course the busiest and best day in the Mill Road calendar – Mill Road Winter Fair! The event, which began in 2005 and is now held on the first Saturday of each December, has been in the planning for many months and will see residents, shops and the local community coming together to celebrate the area and all that it has to offer.

The Fair is well known for its musical delights and this year looks set to be no exception. If you were on the bridge at last years Fair you may well have felt the earth move whilst watching The Brass Funkeys – there were reports that the bridge was, quite literally, shaking as people danced and enjoyed themselves! This year you can find the band hosting ‘The Brass Funkeys presents…’ outside Code Hairdressers on Mill Road, as part of Code’s Christmas Cracker. The band will be playing at around 3pm and during the day you can also catch Wil Buchanon, Thudbox, Live and Let Funk and Balkanoes on the stage. Code will also be serving mulled wine and cider and there’ll be lots of other activities including vintage hairdos and facepainting.

MRWFJC 3All along Mill Road there will be lots of other performers and musicians throughout the day, including the Jackson Creek Band at 2pm by the Avenue of Limes whilst at the same time The Scissors are playing at Ditchburn Gardens and The Centimes will be at Gwydir Street Car park. Argyle Street Housing Co-operative will also be hosting their much loved Winter Fair stage, with music from 11am – including the Arco Iris Samba Band at 13:40, Dave Crow Barr at 15:00, Jam Band Caravan at 16:00 and Fara Fiddle at 17:00. This will culmiate in an ASH Co-op Jam on the stage around 18:30. As well as music, ASH Co-op car park will of course also be playing host to a range of stalls selling festive gifts and goodies, second hand goods and plenty of books.

Other activities include a Craft Market at the drama studio on Covent Garden, where you can find The Map Project team and lots of art and craft stalls. There will also be a Winter Wardrobe Fashion Show at the Salisbury Club on Mill Road, the Cambridge Lindy Hoppers dancing in the streets of Romsey and the Carnival Parade – which will be setting off from the town end of Mill Road around 12:15 before making its way down to Coleridge Road.

MRWF JC 2One of the great things about Mill Road Winter Fair is being able to wander between all the different shops, many of whom are offering homemade food and drink on stalls outside. There will also be a number of food stalls at Gwydir Street Car Park, including Mr Cake – he’s the chap that made the papers last year when he left his job by icing his resignation letter onto a cake!

With so much going on, there’s bound to be something to suit just about everyone. Hope everyone has a great Fair! :o)

Mill Road Festive Lights

Mill Road is known for the festive light display of giant snowflakes adorning its shop fronts in the run up to Christmas and the beautifully lit large trees at the top of Gwydir Street that can be seen from a distance; and this year will see the addition of new trees at the top of Cavendish Road and near the corner with Ross Street as well as a Switch On event at Cambridge Bed Centre.

snowflakes dark longFestive Lights PosterA team of volunteers organises and raises funds for the Mill Road festive lights and they begin planning several months ahead of the festive season. Their work includes organising PAT testing and repair of the lights, as well as installation, take down and the organisation of the Switch On event. The group are a not-for profit community organisation and have received a grant from Cambridge City Council as well as sponsorship from many of the businesses in the Mill Road area and help from a number of local residents. They are always looking for volunteers to join them, if you would like to get involved or make a donation then do visit their website for more info on how you can help.

Switch On TimingsThis year the Switch On event will take place at Cambridge Bed Centre on Mill Road on Sunday 17th November. There will be a lantern making workshop for little ones at Ross Street Community Centre from 4pm, with a procession of the lanterns making its way to the Cambridge Bed Centre at 5:15pm. The festivities include stalls and entertainment at the Bed Centre from 5pm, including music from local community radio station Cambridge 105, Elliot Porter & The Missing Pieces and The Hot Lights; as well as the ever popular Steak & Honour burger van and a barbecue by local legend Carlos from Mill Road’s very own Bosphorus restaurant/take away. There will also be a tombola/prize draw and the lights themselves will be switched on around 6:15 by Romsey resident Councillor Paul Saunders, the Mayor of Cambridge.

Your favourite High Street

The Telegraph newspaper are running a campaign called Reinventing the High Street, aiming to put the heart back into the country’s traditional high streets. People are asked to nominate their favourite simply¬†by emailing highstreet@telegraph.co.uk.

Mill Road BridgeI don’t know about you, but I think there’s something pretty special about Mill Road and I think it deserves a place among the best that the UK has to offer. Not only is¬†the Mill Road area¬†home to Cambridge’s best independent pub, coffee house, home & garden shop, specialist food shop and record shop (all awarded this year in the Discovering Cambridge awards) and home to the Independent Drinks Retailer of The Year (as voted at the UK Drinks Retailing Awards 2013) but it’s also the location of CAMRA‘s Cambridge¬†City Locale Pub Of The Year 2013. There’s a range of events on throughout the year – including the Romsey Art Festival,¬†several street parties, various beer festivals¬†and of course the forthcoming Mill Road Winter Fair – as well as regular music nights at lots of different venues; and next week sees the first ever Romsey Calling music festival on Mill Road.

Mill Road has even been used as a location for music videos (like Mikill Pane’s ‘Good Feeling‘),¬†films (Neil Morrissey was here last month filming a new movie, Caffiend), TV programmes (including Antiques Road Trip)¬†and has had residents such as¬†Douglas Adams,¬†Dave Gilmour, Syd Barrett, Angela Hartnett¬†and Amy Williams over the years. It¬†even has its own blog and its own radio show – ‘Our Mill Road‘! There’s lots more I could say about Mill Road, but too much for one blog post (hence the whole blog!) but suffice to say it’s full of community-spirited¬†individuals and groups¬†and has lots of people¬†living, working and socialising in the area and keeping Mill Road the coolest street in Cambridge.

All you need to do to nominate Mill Road is to email highstreet@telegraph.co.uk and let them know! You know what they say – there’s something about Mill Road… .

A slice of the action…

Taank Optometrists opened on Mill Road in 2003 and this year they are¬†celebrating not only ten years¬†of the practice but also¬†one hundred¬†years of there being an optometrists¬†practice at the very same¬†site. To mark the centenary, Taank decided to host a Bake Off on Saturday, with professionals and amateurs invited to make cakes¬†along a glasses theme…

Stilt WalkerWith special guest David Baddiel set to judge the contest, alongside owner Anjana Taank, I knew that the day would be an entertaining one. I had been tempted to enter the Bake Off myself (though I’m not quite sure how¬†the blog headline ‘David Baddiel at my cake‘ would have gone down…) but time factors meant it was going to be a bit too rushed. However, being at a Bake Off on Parkers Piece on a beautifully sunny Saturday afternoon felt like a very appropriate and ‘Cambridge’ thing to do and lots of passers by dropped in, as well as of course the bakers themselves and eager friends and families keen to see who would be crowned star baker. In fact there was a slightly surreal¬†moment when I looked out of the marquee and saw people carrying cake boxes and slowly walking towards the marquee from all directions on Parkers Piece!

David BaddielWhen David Baddiel arrived he was more than happy to pose for photos and sign books brought along by fans. He admitted¬†that the Bake Off¬†was his first such event and that it probably wouldn’t do his waistline much good, but he and Anjana¬†soon got¬†in to the swing of judging the contest and quizzing the entrants about their cake designs and ingredients. There were lots of cakes to get through and so I reasured myself that not baking had actually been a good call – I don’t think David or¬†Anjana would have thanked me if they’d had to eat¬†any more cake!

Dame Edna inspired cakeI was intrigued as to what kind of designs people would come up with, but I have to say that every single one of the cakes looked fantastic and temptingly delicious. One of my favourites was a Dame Edna themed cake made by a lady called Christine Рit was beautifully made with intricate icing designs and came complete with obligatory outlandish purple glasses, in fact I tweeted about it over the weekend and even had the real Dame Edna Everage spot it and favourite my tweet!

Despicable Me CakeThe Wooden Spoon award went to Paul Mearman, who made a cake in the shape of a glasses case, and the runner up was Reuben Daly who made an amazingly colourful multi-layered cake aptly¬†called ‘The Spectrum’. The winner was Fiona McDuff (who some of you may know¬†as the winner of¬†the Cambridge Bake Off earlier this year) who made an absolutely amazing Despicable Me minion cake, complete with eye chart, Taank Optometrists¬†logo and ‘100 Years’ glasses. She had obviously put a lot of effort in to getting it perfect and explained that the main part of the cake was made with around twelve layers! I had never seen anything quite like it before and she was a most deserving winner.

David Baddiel did a great job of judging and entertaining us all throughout, in fact I suspect he’d have a very promising new career should he ever decide to diversify¬†into cake¬†comedy (I¬†adore Mel & Sue, but perhaps he could stand in when one of them is off sick…?). It was a great day out and a unique way to celebrate the centenary, and next time there’s a Bake Off near me I’m definitely entering…!