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


Cambridge Open Studios 2013

Saturday saw the opening of the 2013 Cambridge Open Studios – an annual exhibition where¬†local artists¬†open up their studios and homes to the public across four weekends in July. It’s a great opportunity to find out more about the artists and see where they work, as well as enjoy¬†what is probably the¬†largest art exhibition in Cambridge (albeit at a range of venues)¬†– there are over 269 artists taking part this year!

Jersey CowThe roots of Cambridge Open Studios go back to the 1960’s and this year’s exhibitors include sculptors, potters, ceramicists, silversmiths, furniture makers and printers – as well as those working with more traditional media – so there should be something for everyone. I usually take the opportunity to go and see work locally when the exhibition is on and this year there are over twenty exhibitors on and around Mill Road alone – including animal sculptor JJ Vincent,¬†jewellery designer Lindsay Duff and painters Sheila Farrant¬†and Tim O’Brien. This year I’ll also be¬†taking a trip out to some of the ones further afield – if you haven’t seen Georgia Record‘s artwork yet then I highly recommend a viewing. Her work is mainly oil painting on canvas, stick-and-ink drawings and photography and she’s one of the most exciting young artists whose work¬†I’ve seen!

You can search for exhibitors by name, location, media type or even on a map. You don’t need to book and it’s free, so if you want¬†to get to know your neighbours better why not drop in to some of the exhibitions near you!

Food for thought…

With the recent horsemeat scandal and a number of other stories in the press casting doubt on where our food comes from and what it actually is, it’s not surprising that a number of people are now considering vegetarian and even vegan diets as the way forward. Some of my friends have been doing this for a while, but the longest serving vegetarian/vegan I know has to be my friend Joan Court Рwho became vegetarian as a teenager some 77 years ago, and is also a confirmed vegan.

Global FruitLocal author Joan explains that the United Nations have said a global shift towards a meat-free and dairy-free diet¬†is necessary if we want to be able to eat sustainably in the future and reduce the impact of climate change; and¬†a¬†look at some of the UN figures that have been published in¬†recent times¬†also suggest that over a third of the food produced globally goes to waste ‚Äď which sounds bad¬†enough in itself, but even more worrying when you consider that food production accounts for 70% of our freshwater consumption, 80% of deforestation and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Joan CourtMahatma Gandhi ‚Äď who Joan worked alongside in the 1940‚Äôs ‚Äď suggested that vegan diets are beneficial for our own health:
‚ÄúIt is very significant that some of the most thoughtful and cultured men are partisans of a pure vegetable diet‚ÄĚ
…and vegetarian and particularly vegan diets are, of course, kinder to animals – something Joan is all too keenly aware of.¬†After moving to¬†Cambridge¬†in the late 1970’s to study social anthropology, she co-founded¬†Animal Rights Cambridge¬†‚Äď the longest serving animal rights group in the UK. They hold regular monthly meetings¬†in the¬†Mill Road area¬†and¬†have been involved in a number of local and national animal welfare campaigns ‚Äď from¬†persuading the Michelin starred Midsummer House restaurant to remove foie gras from its menu, to campaigning against live animal exports.

Animals BetrayedJoan’s¬†latest book, Animals Betrayed, features interviews with a number of animal rights activists across the UK. It¬†gives an insight into many of the issues faced by those campaigning for animal welfare and also sheds some light on why some of them¬†first chose to become vegetarian/vegan. Some of those interviewed also talk about animal consciousness¬†‚Äď a topic that has been the subject of¬†much research and debate¬†in recent years, including at the 2012 University of Cambridge conference ‘Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals‘.

Joan will be signing copies of her book¬†at the RSPCA Bookshop on Mill Road on Saturday – 30th March – between 2 and 5pm. If you can’t make Saturday but would still like a copy of the book (published by Selene¬†Press and priced ¬£12.50)¬†it’s available¬†via Amazon¬†or by phoning (01223) 311828. Joan will¬†be happy to talk about a host of animal welfare issues on Saturday, so it’s a great opportunity to find out more …and she might even share her tips on the best Mill Road places¬†to do a vegan food shop!

Book signing: ‘Animals Betrayed’ by Joan Court¬†
Saturday 30th March, 2-5pm –¬†at the RSPCA Bookshop, 188 Mill Road CB1 3LP

The write stuff…

January can often be a month of ‚Äėstaying in‚Äô, following on from Christmas excesses (both financial and dietary!); and with the cold weather here for a while longer, what better than to curl up with a good¬†read. The Mill Road area¬†has been¬†blessed with a few local authors, at least three of whom have recently published books‚Ķ

Mission: Explore - FoodLocal resident Tom Morgan-Jones is an award winning illustrator. I first met Tom a few years ago when he was visiting my friend and neighbour with whom he had¬†co-created the board game ‚ÄėWar On Terror‚Äô (great fun to play, though I think my parents were a little¬†taken aback when I bought it for them as a Christmas present!) and since then he has worked on numerous projects. His work can be seen in all manner of places and one of his most recent publications is ‚ÄėMission: Explore Food‚Äô, which he both¬†co-authored – along with other members of the Geography Collective – and illustrated. The book aims to change the way children think about food and teaches them everything from growing food and cooking it to eating and food waste. It‚Äôs a family book and includes over 150 ‚Äėmissions‚Äô for children to complete. Tom has lived just off Mill Road for over fifteen years now and whilst doing his research for the book he spoke to local butchers Andrew Northrop‚Äôs. He tells me that they were extremely helpful and really helped the book to become what it is – so where better to get your copy than on Mill Road itself! Mission: Explore Food‚Äô written by The Geography Collective¬†& illustrated by¬†¬† Tom Morgan-Jones. Hardback, available from Andrew Northrop‚Äôs (114 Mill Road, CB1 2BQ) priced¬†¬£20. Also available to order online via the Guardian Bookshop.

Two under twoCelia Anderson is a writer and web designer¬†who runs her own copywriting business in Devon, but her roots are firmly steeped in Cambridge and she has lived on Mill Road itself ‚Äď in fact she describes herself as somewhat of a Mill Road fanatic (and I know she still misses the Black Cat Caf√©!). I have known Celia for many years though have not seen her for a while ‚Äď during which time she has had two children (where does the time go!). Combining her love of writing with her new-found experience of motherhood inspired her to start her blog ‚Äď 2under2 ‚Äď back in 2012. This has been hugely popular and so she has now published a digital book all about her experiences – ‚ÄėTwo under two: coping with a baby and a toddler‚Äô. It‚Äôs a personal and empathetic guide to coping with a toddler and a newborn and has plenty of useful tips as well as interviews with other parents of two under two.
Two under two: coping with a baby and a toddler’ by Celia Anderson. Available for download on Amazon, priced £5.73.

Animals BetrayedJoan Court is a local writer and campaigner with a passion for¬†animal welfare. She lives in the Mill Road area and is a confirmed vegan and cat lover who is very much part of her local community. I first met Joan some time ago and she is one of the most active people I know (which considering her 93 years, puts many of us to shame!). Although much of¬†her time¬†is currently taken up with running campaigns for Animal Rights Cambridge¬†(which she co-founded in the late 1970’s),¬†she has¬†had a¬†varied career that has¬†seen her work as a district midwife in wartime London, witness Indian independence, attend fasts with¬†Mahatma Gandhi, pioneer birth control in Pakistan, retrain as a social worker and¬†at the age of 86 become a crew member on the Farley Mowat (as part of¬†Sea Shepherd)¬†– as well as gaining a degree in social anthropology from New Hall (now Murray Edwards College) here in Cambridge and a masters degree¬†in social work. Joan has recently published her third book – ‘Animals Betrayed’ – which¬†has interviews with a number of animal rights activists and campaigners, and gives an insight into many of the issues that have affected animal welfare over the years.
Animals Betrayed’ by Joan Court. Paperback, published by Selene Press and¬†priced ¬£12.50¬†(+¬£2 p&p). Please phone (01223) 311828 to order your copy.

Luckily you can get your hands on copies of all the above books without ever having to leave Mill Road Рhappy reading!

An open book (shop!)

I was¬†really pleased to hear about the RSPCA Bookshop on Mill Road¬†re-opening¬†on Saturday¬†‚Äď when I first saw the shop empty a couple of weeks ago, I had feared the worst, but it turned out they were just doing the place up!

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The RSPCA Bookshop on Mill Road, which re-opened on 11th August 2012.

I popped in today to see how they’ve been getting on since the refurbishment, and was greeted with a very warm welcome. The shop is bright and airy with a new blue and white colour scheme and they have books on just about every subject imaginable (though the poetry and science fiction sections particularly caught my eye!). There’s also a growing collection of CD’s, DVD’s, videos and vinyl records; and you can even buy a cup of coffee to enjoy whilst browsing.

It turns out they actually have more books than space at the moment, so if there’s something you’re after but can’t see it on the shelves, it is probably worth asking. They rely on donations of unwanted books from the public Рin fact just this afternoon they had a number of fishing books donated, so if this is what you’re angling for then do pop down and see them.

The bookshop is now one of only two bookshops on Mill Road and is a much needed resource in the area (especially since both Browne‚Äôs Bookshop and the Libra Aries shop have closed in the last few years). The shop is staffed by volunteers and the money raised goes to a very good cause ‚Äď the work of the RSPCA focuses on animal rescue, welfare and cruelty prevention ‚Äď so I for one am really pleased to see it open again and serving the community.