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)

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 – who 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 – 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 – who Joan worked alongside in the 1940’s – suggested that vegan diets are beneficial for our own health:
It is very significant that some of the most thoughtful and cultured men are partisans of a pure vegetable diet
…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 – 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 – 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 – 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

Thank you

There's something about Mill RoadEarlier this week I spotted that this blog has had over seven thousand visits which is brilliant; and I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read any of my articles and posts. As you may know, there’s also a Twitter account associated with this blog and there are now over 500 followers on it – by the way, if you aren’t signed up to Twitter you can still see my tweets though you do need to sign up if you want to respond to any of them; and there is of course also a Facebook page.

Mill Road is such a great area to live and shop in, and this blog is my way of celebrating that and making sure that people know about lots of the wonderful things we have going on locally. I recently asked for people’s suggestions for blog posts, tweets and the forthcoming website – thank you to all those that have responded. The website content is just about ready and I am now just working through the technical side of things, so the website will be launched at some point in March (I’ll give a date nearer the time).

As you may know, books have been quite a theme for me recently and I’ve met with a number of the authors we have living locally to gather info for my articles (more book posts coming soon, I promise!). This got me thinking that we should actually have a book about Mill Road and I have spent quite a bit of time looking into this – it would be great to celebrate our lovely neighbourhood and all the things we have to offer, including our projects, independent traders and the people who make the area what it is. I will be putting a proper call out for information and contributions soon, but in the mean time if you have any suggestions then do let me know – you can email theressomethingaboutmillroad@hotmail.co.uk.

A big thank you to all of you who have taken an interest in things Mill Road!

Award-winning Mill Road

There have been a few winners in the Mill Road area already this month and so I thought I’d give them a well-deserved mention…

Cambridge Wine MerchantsCambridge Wine Merchants
Independent Drinks Retailer of the Year
(Drinks Retailing Awards)

Run by friends Peter and Hal who met here in the City, Cambridge Wine Merchants opened its first shop on Mill Road itself back in 1993. They now have seven branches (mostly in and around Cambridge, though one is in Salisbury) and host masterclasses as well as tasting events and training courses. Although I have bought wine from their shop on Mill Road, I have to admit that most of my visits have been when I have been looking for small presents – the shop has a huge selection of weird and wonderful miniature spirits and liqueurs (not to mention beers!), many of which I haven’t seen anywhere else! The Drinks Retailing Awards were held earlier this months in London and Cambridge Wine Merchants scooped the Best Independent Drinks Retailer award – for the third time!

Cambridge Women's Resources CentreCambridge Women’s Resources Centre
Finalist
(Cash For The Community campaign)

Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre is based on Hooper Street and provides resources and opportunities for women, including training, networking, friendship and one-to-one support. They also have an on-site creche for users of the centre and are open to all women in the community. The centre was recently chosen as one of 25 local community groups who will share a £10,000 pot of grant funding via the Cash For The Community campaign (other groups who will share the pot include Headway, formerly of Mill Road). The campaign was set up by the Cambridge Building Society and Cambridge News, and the amount each group receives will depend on how many tokens readers of the Cambridge News collect and submit for their chosen group before 8th March.

Hot NumbersHot Numbers
Best Independent Coffee Shop
(Discovering Cambridge Awards)

Hot Numbers opened as a coffee shop almost two years ago, but has quickly grown its repertoire and now hosts various music nights, gigs and art events – for example on Thursday night Hot Numbers will be playing host to acoustic guitar and bluegrass with Kate Vowles, and next Tuesday sees the fortnightly Dr Doodleys Drink & Draw meet up. The shop also recently merged with Williams Art next door and is now a coffee shop and art gallery all in one. The Discovering Cambridge Awards were set up last month by local MP Julian Huppert and are aimed at celebrating the independent shops and businesses we have here in Cambridge, with a winner being chosen in a different category each month. Hot Numbers were voted Best Coffee Shop, winning the very first award in the competition (an over all winner for 2013 will be chosen at the Mill Road Winter Fair in December).

The Sea TreeThe Sea Tree
One of three local winners
(Local Business Accelerators competition)

The Sea Tree opened on Mill Road nearly five years ago and is now well known locally for its wide selection of fish (and of course chips) to eat in or take away – though what may be less well known is that you can buy fresh fish and seafood to cook at home (I have a particular liking for their fresh King scallops!). The Sea Tree is one of three winners that have been chosen in the Local Business Accelerators competition for the Cambridge area (the other two being Cambridge Van Man and Whey Forward Industries) and will receive a free advertising campaign in the Cambridge News and mentoring from local business leaders, as well as the chance to scoop the top prize in the national competition later in the year (which includes a £10,000 advertising campaign, a years membership of the CBI and mentoring from Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden).

There's something about Mill RoadThere’s something about Mill Road
Winner of 50 copies of ‘Mission: Explore Food’
(The Geography Collective book competition)

Well, I couldn’t really write this article without giving myself at least a mention could I (!). The Geography Collective have written a book called Mission: Explore Food, which has lots of tasks and missions for children to do and teaches them (and indeed adults!) about the food cycle. They recently decided to give away fifty copies (worth £1,000) to a library in the UK and entrants had to write a blog post all about the book and which library service they would give them to. I didn’t let the fact that we don’t actually have a library service around Mill Road put me off applying (!) and it seems the Geography Collective thought that this made the Mill Road area a particularly deserving winner. I was thrilled to win the books for our area and will be distributing them amongst my chosen list of twenty local groups who I think would particularly benefit from receiving them – this includes Romsey Community Garden, Romsey Mill, Friends of Mill Road Cemetery, Argyle Street Housing Co-operative Kids Group, the RSPCA Bookshop and Ridgefield Primary School, as well as lots of other organisations doing good things in our community. You can read my winning blog post here.

More local winners?
You can collect and submit tokens on behalf of Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre (or whichever of the 25 groups you want to support) in the Cash For the Community campaign, tokens are printed in the Cambridge News every day until 1st March and must be received by 8th March. Also, the category for this months Discovering Cambridge competition is music and bookshops – so don’t forget to let Julian Huppert know what your favourite local independent in this category is by the end of the month.

It’s great to live in an area that has so many fantastic community groups and independent shops and businesses. Well done to all the recent winners! If you’re aware of any others I’ve missed then do let me know.

On a mission…

Mission: Explore FoodI blogged a couple of weeks ago about the ‘Mission: Explore Food‘ book that was illustrated (and co-authored) by Cambridge’s Tom Morgan-Jones and written by The Geography Collective. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a family/children’s book with lots of food ‘missions’ for children to create and activities to help them understand the life cycle of food (everything from sowing and growing it through to eating, digestion and recycling).

I have spotted that the lovely chaps and chapesses at The Geography Collective are very generously giving away a set of 50 ‘Mission: Explore Food’ books (which works out to £1,000 worth of books!) to a library service somewhere in the UK. This is brilliant and I would dearly love the books to wing their way to the Mill Road area (and hereby nominate Mill Road). Some of you may have spotted a potential glitch to this plan, which is that there is actually no longer a library on Mill Road (it was sadly shut down in the late 1990’s), but I think this makes it even more important that we ensure children (and everyone) have access to books – this is just the kind of thing that could help children enjoy books and bring them together in the community with others and help families meet each other.

Example missions

Given that there is no library on or near Mill Road, I would give the books to local primary schools (for which Mill Road area residents fall in to the catchment area), children’s activity groups and other groups that primarily benefit children/families. There could be all sorts of benefits to children, families and the wider community, for example:

  • The missions would be fun to explore for both adults and children.
  • It would help children and youngsters get involved in their local community.
  • Children would have their own project/s that they could work on/organise themselves.
  • Some of the missions/projects could be turned into community events.
  • Children and their families may want to visit local food producers and shops to ask questions, which would be really great (especially as there’s quite a local foodie theme going on at the moment).
  • The books are well illustrated and show children that books don’t have to just be about reading on your own, they can also be about action and fun.
  • Some of the missions could be specifically relevant locally – for example, there’s a local idea to set up a farmers market and one of the missions involves visiting a farmers market.
  • Children (and adults!) will get to learn a lot about the food cycle, which will help them make informed choices.

Mission: Explore Food

There are others that exist locally, but having done some research into this I feel the following Mill Road area groups/organisations would particularly benefit from sharing the books:

  • Argyle Street Housing Co-operative Kids Group
  • Cambridge & Ely Child Contact Centre
  • Coram Adopt Anglia
  • Friends of Mill Road Cemetery
  • George Pateman Court Community Centre
  • Little Bookworms Club (at Ross Street Community Centre)
  • Queen Emma Primary School
  • Morley Memorial School
  • Ridgefield Primary School
  • Romsey Community Garden
  • Romsey Mill
  • St Matthews Primary School
  • St Pauls Primary School
  • St Philips C of E Primary School
  • St Albans Primary School
  • 13th Cambridge Scouts
  • TJ Kids
  • Woodcraft Folk

I would also give a copy to the RSPCA Bookshop on Mill Road – their shop is quite a hub of activity (you can even get a cuppa there whilst browsing the books!) and having a copy of the ‘Mission: Explore Food’ book in the shop would mean people could pop in and read a bit before going on a mission around Mill Road – making it accessible to many more people (I guess this sounds a bit like a library really!). I would also give a copy to Centre 33 – not technically in the Mill Road area, but less than 500 metres walk and they do some really impressive work in providing support and activities for children who are carers to family members.

‘Mission: Explore Food’ is available as an E-book and this is currently free! You can download it via iBooks or Amazon until 31st January;  and if you want to see a quick preview of the book here’s a link to a video from The Geography Collective.

Mission: Explore FoodI’m hoping that the Geography Collective guys read this and see that our lack of library around Mill Road means these books would actually be of particular benefit to our community (though in the event that they are strict about it specifically being a library service that receives the books then I would nominate Cambridgeshire Library service). Fingers crossed!

What’s your favourite coffee shop?

MP Julian Huppert has just launched a competition – Discovering Cambridge – to find the best independent Cambridge businesses. He is asking the public to nominate their favourites and there will be a winner chosen in a different business category each month – with the over all winner being announced in December at the Mill Road Winter Fair. This sounds like a great idea and should hopefully highlight the importance of using our local independent shops and businesses (which shouldn’t be too hard to do around Mill Road!).

The category for January is ‘Best Coffee Shop’ and you can vote for your favourite via Twitter, Facebook, email or post – just remember to do it before the end of the month.

Boards outside some of the cafe's on Mill Road: (L-R) Cafe De Paris, CB1, Neide's Deli Cafe, Limoncello & Cafe Otto.

Boards outside some of the cafe’s on Mill Road: (L-R) Cafe De Paris, CB1, Neide’s Deli Cafe, Limoncello & Cafe Otto.

Even though I’m fairly sure I know a coffee shop when I see one, it’s worth noting that as well as being “a shop where different types of coffee are sold, either to drink or as beans or powder” the term ‘coffee shop’ can also refer to a small informal restaurant where drinks and small meals are served, sometimes in a larger shop or building” – so I assume that café’s and the like can also be included. There are several such places around Mill Road, the vast majority of these are independents and include:   Cafe Otto, Neide’s Deli Cafe, Café De Paris, Hot Numbers Coffee, LimoncelloCB1, Cornerstone, Rotana, BLD’s, Urban Larder, Black Cat, Snakatak; and you can even get a cup of coffee at the RSPCA Bookshop. There are probably others too (apologies to those I’ve missed) but these are just the ones that spring to mind.

Although I have my favourites, I think the competition is a good opportunity to try them all out – well, as many as possible (there’s only so much coffee a girl drink in one month!). It would be great to see one of our Mill Road places win the best coffee shop accolade, but the important thing is that we use our independents – so make sure you go and enjoy some of the local cafes this month.

Also – those of you following me on Twitter or Facebook will know that last week I asked for peoples favourite budget-friendly eateries around Mill Road, as I am writing an article. The article will be a short list of my favourites (which may include cafes, restaurants, pubs etc) but I do want to mention places that other local diners like – so do join in the conversation on Twitter or Facebook and let me know what would be on your list.

The write stuff…

January can often be a month of ‘staying in’, 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…

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 ‘War On Terror’ (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 ‘Mission: Explore Food’, 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’s a family book and includes over 150 ‘missions’ 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’s. 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’ written by The Geography Collective & illustrated by   Tom Morgan-Jones. Hardback, available from Andrew Northrop’s (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 – in fact she describes herself as somewhat of a Mill Road fanatic (and I know she still misses the Black Cat Café!). I have known Celia for many years though have not seen her for a while – 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 – 2under2 – back in 2012. This has been hugely popular and so she has now published a digital book all about her experiences – ‘Two under two: coping with a baby and a toddler’. It’s 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 – happy reading!