Festival comes to Mill Road…

A buskerThe Cambridge Buskers & Street Performers Festival 2013 will be taking place on the weekend of 28th-30th June. The festival, which started in 2008, sees lots of performers and musicians playing across the city and this year there’s a packed line up of performances on and around Mill Road – including outside the Earl of Beaconsfield, Urban Larder, Perfect Pizza, Hope Street Yard and The Co-operative.

Buskers & Street Performers Festival 2013The festival programme has a list of all the acts performing and the locations of each – though do check the website for updates – and talks about what a great area Mill Road is (see page 12) and even mentions this very blog! There’s lots of acts performing on all three days and on Saturday at Hope Street Yard there will also be various food stalls, including Mill Road’s own Perfect Pizza and local ice cream extraordinaire Jack’s Gelato. If you haven’t tried Jacks Gelato before then I highly recommend you do – as well as delectable classics such as chocolate and vanilla, Jack makes lots of other tempting flavours and even his own allotment rhubarb sorbet! He can be found throughout the summer at various locations around town, including Mill Road.

Gwydir Street Party poster 2013Saturday 29th June is also the day of the Gwydir Street Party – which is Victorian themed this year to mark 150 years of the street – and there will be lots of music and entertainment throughout the day including a hog roast, beer festival, circus performers, a puppet show and several stalls. So it certainly looks like the Mill Road area is the place to be for the last weekend in June!

Below is the current line-up of buskers and performers who will be around Mill Road as part of the festival.

FRIDAY 28TH JUNE
Earl of Beaconsfield:
1-2pm TJ & The Doghouse
2-3pm The Revellators Duo
8:30pm The Broadside Boys
Perfect Pizza:
1-2pm The Revellators Duo
Urban Larder:
1-2pm John Meed

SATURDAY 29th JUNE
Co-operative Mill Road:
11am-12pm The Misspent Ukes
Earl of Beaconsfield:
12-1pm The Misspent Ukes;
Further acts throughout the day TBC.
Hope Street Yard:
11-11:20am Sammy Magic
11:20-11:40 Magic Man
11:45-12:15 Sarah Louise
12:20-1pm Finkel Brothers
1:15-2pm Flaming June
2:15-3pm Tomi Komi
3:15-4:15 The Revellators Duo
4:20-5pm Music & Spies
5:10-5:50pm Hope Brothers Band
6-6:45pm Ellis & Connelly
7-8pm Broken Arrow
Perfect Pizza:
1-2pm Paul McCaffery
3-4pm Music & Spies
Urban Larder:
12-1pm Paul McCaffery

SUNDAY 30th JUNE
Co-operative Mill Road:
12-1pm Paul McCaffery
1-2pm The Times
2-3pm Cate Williams
3-4pm Ain’t Misbehavin
Earl of Beaconsfield:
1-2pm Rebecca Heyne
2-3pm Flaming June
3-4pm Gog Magog Molly
Perfect Pizza:
1-2pm Ain’t Misbehavin
2-3pm Paul McCaffery
Urban Larder:
12-1pm Rhythm & Shoes
1-2pm Paul McCaffery
2-3pm Ain’t Misbehavin’
3-4pm Graham Hazel

Local Plan for Mill Road

RomseyCambridge City Council are currently consulting on sites within the Local Plan area and asking all residents to make any comments they want to by Monday (18th February). The specific document that refers to sites (both available and future ones) within Cambridge is the Local Plan: Issues & Options 2 – Part 2 document. If you’ve already had a look, you’ll see that there are various sites in the Mill Road area that are under discussion. These include the Travis Perkins site on Devonshire Road (p 43), the Ridgeons site on Cromwell Road (p 49), 315-349 Mill Road (p 67) and the Mill Road Council Depot (p 45).

For the Mill Road area I would like to see some more green space, we have a particular lack of it in Petersfield and some of the sites could be used in whole or part to achieve this as well as have some usable community space. We also have a shortage of realistically affordable housing in the area and I think with the right design and considerations we need to look at residential developments on some of these sites. We have the opportunity to shape the future of the area and make sure that whatever happens to these sites fits with what the community wants and needs.

Argyle Street Housing Co-operativeMany of you will know my fondness for co-operatives and the role that I have played at Argyle Street Housing Co-operative (ASH Co-op) over the years. ASH Co-op is proposing that a fully mutual housing co-operative be built on the Mill Road Depot site and I think this could be really great for the area. It would provide affordable, sustainable housing (for people of all ages) which would be run by its residents and be community led. I see from the Local Plan document that there are potential issues with the site, such as access, cycling provision and a lack of green space in the area – I think a housing housing co-operative on the Depot site would be able to address all these issues and provide space that the whole Mill Road community could share. Having lived at ASH for some years, I know the many benefits that co-operative living can bring – such as having a real say in your housing, being part of a friendly community (I know all 90 of my neighbours here at ASH!), training to help run the co-op (which is also very useful in employment terms), experience of managing projects and equipping people with tools they can use to play an active and participative role in the wider community. For more information about what is being proposed, please visit the ASH Co-op website. Also here is a link to an article in the Cambridge News last year, that gives an insight into co-operative living.

If you want to comment on the housing co-operative idea or indeed any part of the Local Plan, please visit the consultation page on the City Council’s website. It explains how you can respond online or complete a form to deliver by hand. However you respond, make sure you do it by the deadline – 5pm on Monday!

A Fair Do!

MRWF trufflesI hope everyone enjoyed Mill Road Winter Fair on Saturday. There was so much going on that I didn’t even get to see half the things I had hoped to, but I still thoroughly enjoyed myself. What better way to start the day than with some foodie delights, so I decided to make some dark chocolate and dragon ginger truffles first thing in the morning. Although I am not vegan myself, I have tested various truffle recipes over the last few months and the one that tastes most delicious just happens to be vegan. They seemed to go down a treat with everyone that tried them and I had a few people ask me to make some for them to give as presents – so I will probably be spending quite a bit of time in the kitchen over the next couple of weeks!

MRWF ASh Co-opI did a tour of the very busy Food Fair at Gwydir Street car park, which had some amazing edibles. The crowds were so great that you could only move in one direction, so if you passed a stall without stopping it wasn’t easy to go back. The Afternoon Tease stall had already sold out of all three (!) chocolate and Guinness cakes by the time I arrived, but I did treat myself to one of their lovely rum cup cakes. I saw some delicious looking burgers at one of the farmshop stalls and decided that I had to have one, but then I realised that there was a very long queue indeed, so I’m afraid I gave up. I tasted lots of food at the Fair including a lovely free jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw, courtesy of ‘Joseph’ outside Mill Road Baptist church. But I have to say my favourite food of all was the chickpea curry at Lally’s News, it was really warming and spicy, and possibly the best vegetarian curry I have ever tasted – Amrik and Raj are known locally for their delicious curries, and deservedly so.

MRWF Ash Co-opThere was lots of music along Mill Road and I saw people jiving on the Broadway. At one point I could hear my friends band playing on Mill Road bridge. I heard later from others that so many people were dancing to the music on the bridge during the day that the bridge, rather worryingly, actually started to shake (eek!). There was some great music at Argyle Street Housing Co-op in the afternoon, including musicians from the Jam Band Caravan collective playing folk and reggae, and I even heard some thrash metal at one point (!).

MRWF Mulled WineMyself and Mr Mill Road decided to pop in to the Earl of Beaconsfield in the afternoon in the hope of having a nice warm cup of coffee, but when we arrived the place was packed and everyone seemed to be drinking mulled wine – which sounded like a marvellous idea, and so we ordered some without hesitating. I don’t normally drink red wine, but mulled wine is different and this one tasted so nice that I decided to go and buy the ingredients (cloves, dried ginger, a cinnamon stick and a bottle of Chilean red) on Mill Road so I could try making some at home. The resulting mulled wine was great and I shall definitely be trying this again over the next few weeks (probably quite a few times!).

MRWF ReindeerFor me though, the best part of the Fair was bumping into so many friends as well as chatting to lots of people I’d never met before; and the absolute highlight for me was getting to meet my friends’ daughter for the first time – who at just two and a half weeks old was possibly the Fair’s youngest visitor! A massive well done to everyone involved in making Mill Road Winter Fair happen, including the Committee and all the visitors that came along on the day – it’s great to live in such a diverse and inclusive area that has so many community-minded people.

Mill Road Winter Fair 2012

SnowflakeJust in case you haven’t heard, tomorrow is the most important day in the Mill Road calendar – Mill Road Winter Fair! There will be plenty to see and do up and down the length of Mill Road as well as on many of the nearby streets; and if past years are anything to go by, any sort of plan I make will soon disappear as lots of other exciting things are discovered along the way…

Chocolate & Guinness CakeOne of my favourite parts of the Fair over the years has been the compliments booth outside Lifecraft – last year I received some very kind words and was also given an inspirational scroll to keep. This year they will be opening their doors and will have a selection of artwork and goodies for sale inside, as well as a performance from the Lifecraft Singers. I’m looking forward to visiting the Afternoon Tease stall (Gwydir Street car park) with its selection of lovely cakes, including chocolate and Guinness cake – which, given my adoration of the two main ingredients, feels like it was invented just for me! Keeping with the cake theme, I’m tempted to pop along to Cutlacks, where the will be a cake decorating demonstration (I need to learn!) as well as beer and wine tasting – which should keep Mr Mill Road happy too.

Argyle Street Housing Co-op gardensThe car park at Argyle Street Housing Co-operative (ASH Co-op is on the east side of Mill Road bridge) is well known for being a hub of activity at the Fair and this year looks set to be no exception. There will be an open marquee with music from Tariq Muhammed & The Africelt Connection and Dave Crow Barr playing some punk tunes with his electric cello. There’s also music from Jam Band Caravan, who will be playing their mixture of folk-rock, roots and reggae, as well as lots of other musicians throughout the day. The Arco Iris Samba Band traditionally play each year and I am told their performance this year should be at around 1:45pm. The Mayor of Cambridge also usually pays a visit to ASH Co-op during the Fair (in fact, some of you may remember watching former MP David Howarth and former mayor Jenny Bailey pedalling away to keep the the bicycle-powered sound system going a few years back!).

Mill Road Winter Fair 2009If you want to know more about T’ai Chi then who better to advise than the Vice-President of the T’ai Chi union of Great Britain! He and others will be on hand at the Grey Heron stall at ASH Co-op to advise about this martial art known for its health and meditative benefits, as well as other health and wellbeing practices.There will also be other information stalls as well as all sorts of goodies to treat yourself with or to buy as Christmas presents. Look out for chestnuts, chocolate truffles and a stall selling homemade chutneys – including a yummy sounding combination of onion and orchard apple, which I have heard described by others as ‘Christmas in a jar’! There’s also a stall selling a range of second-hand books as well as toys and games.

Mill Road trees in winterThere are lots of other things going on at the Fair. If you’re in Romsey then look out for special offers at Balv’s Hair & Wigs near the bridge and Billy’s off licence next door; and if you need warming up in the cold weather, the Earl of Beaconsfield has music and will be happy to serve you a free cup of coffee. If you’re looking for activities for your little ones then you will find a bouncy castle, face-painting and story-telling at Romsey Mill, a puppet show at St Philips Church at 3pm and Santa himself will be appearing at the Empress pub on Thoday Street from 3-5pm. If you find yourself on the Petersfield side of the bridge then I would recommend popping along to Lally’s News, where there will be some lovely vegetarian Punjabi food, with all proceeds this year going towards children at Addenbrookes Hospital; and just a few metres away you will find Andrew Northrop’s Butchers serving some lovely warming sausages.

I could go on, but the best thing about Mill Road Winter Fair is just taking a walk along Mill Road and seeing what you discover… Hope everyone has a great Fair!

Chocolate truffles!

I’ve had a very busy few days, but in an attempt to squeeze in some much needed ‘me time’ I decided I’d try my hand at making chocolate truffles. I had never made truffles before – of any kind – so this really was an ‘experiment’. Much as I love eating chocolatey truffle delights, I figured I probably ought to share the finished product with friends (well thirty odd truffles would be a bit much for one person) and given that one of my friends is a vegan I thought it only fair to make some for him to try too (by the way, November is World Vegan Month, but more on that another time).

Those of you following me on Twitter will know that I’d been trying to track down some vegan cream over the last few days, and thanks to @JudeClarke (who knows a thing or two about baking – and music), @CraftyGlitten (do check out her craft blog) and @MillRoadCo (the Mill Road Co-ordinator) I found just the thing in Arjuna. I wanted a vegan thick double cream equivalent, as the recipes I looked at all seemed to suggest double cream was key to getting the consistency right. As it turned out, Arjuna didn’t have a double cream equivalent as such, but they did have (vegan) spray whipped cream so I decided to give that a go.

Armed with chocolate, cream and cocoa powder, it was time to get started! Firstly I broke two bars of Montezuma Dark Chocolate (which is vegan friendly) into pieces and put in a glass mixing bowl, which I then placed over a saucepan of simmering water. The chocolate melted fairly quickly and I stirred it continuously to make sure there were no bits left (and that it didn’t boil). I put the bowl to one side to cool for about three or four minutes and then mixed in a small splash of Marsala wine (the same wine that’s used in the base of tiramisu desserts) which I’d bought at Limoncello. I then put about a third of the melted chocolate mix in a separate bowl – for making the vegan truffles.

For the vegan ones I added some of my vegan cream – as it comes in a spray can it
was hard to measure just how much I was using, but I’d say about a 30cm ‘length’ of cream. I just stirred it in slowly with a spoon until it was all mixed in together. For the non-vegan one I used about two heaped dessert spoons of extra thick double cream (from the Co-op) – which I then slowly stirred in to the melted chocolate until it was one smooth paste. Each mixture then went into its own square dish, and I smoothed each one down so it was about 2cm high – the paste mixtures were thick enough that even though they didn’t take up all of the base of the dishes, they held their shape. I then put each one in the fridge.

This gave me about ten minutes to sit in the garden with a well deserved cuppa. At this point on a Sunday, if I’m cooking, my neighbours cat would usually pop over and say hello, in the hope that I’m making some kind of chicken dish that he needs to test for me – but unfortunately he passed away on Wednesday afternoon (RIP Marley) and so I sat on my own, pondering the possibilities of feline re-incarnation and wondering just where the idea that cats might have nine lives came from.

After a ten minute break I got my truffle mixes out of the fridge. I cut each one into long slabbed strips of chocolate, with a knife. Just to make sure the truffle slabs didn’t start to melt I popped them back in the fridge for another five minutes. I then removed each slab and cut into pieces so that I then had about twenty five cubes of creamy chocolate truffle mix and ten cubes of the vegan one. I dusted each lightly with cocoa powder… and volia!

I had half expected things not to turn out right, especially as I couldn’t find the vegan cream I was after. But I was really impressed with the resulting truffles. Word had got round west Romsey (well, my neighbours!) that it was truffle day and I didn’t have to go far to find friends eagerly anticipating a chocolate fix – namely as far as my living room and next doors. Though I did pop across the garden and offer some to other neighbours too. Everyone loved the truffles, though I noted that the vegan ones were a tiny bit crumbly in texture – I think I will rectify this in future by not adding quite so much cream to my melted chocolate; and next time I’ll probably be a bit less liberal with the cocoa powder too.

If your past dessert attempts haven’t been too successful, or you are put off by the ‘baking’ aspect of cakes, then I suggest trying your hand at chocolate truffles. They are so easy and there’s no cooking required – except for melting the chocolate, but that’s half the fun (and you get to save on washing up by eating all the melted chocolateness that doesn’t quite make it into the mixture!).

Chocolate truffles – deluscious!

Go forth and co-operate

After chatting with a friend yesterday about the Government’s proposed Welfare Reforms and how they might affect housing co-operatives, I went to a certain co-operative supermarket on Mill Road to do my shopping and then on to the local wholefood co-op for some specialist supplies. It occured to me that this was rather a lot of, erm, co-operation all in one day and made me wonder just how many co-operatives there are locally.

Firstly, what is a co-operative anyway? Well the definition that co-operatives generally adhere to is:

an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily co-operate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit.

This definition applies to all co-operatives and members of co-operatives make the decisions about how their organisation operates – this is usually done by regular meetings and based on the principle of each member having one vote. Co-op’s take on many forms, for example there are worker co-op’s, housing co-op’s, educational co-op’s and more – I’ve even discovered that Cambridge has it’s very own Ukulele Co-op!

It might not seem like there are many co-operatives around Mill Road (or indeed in Cambridge) but there are actually quite a few:

I also discovered that the Romsey Town Allotments Group and Vinery Road Allotments are both listed with Co-operatives UK, as is one of the Woodcraft Folk young people’s groups.

So it certainly seems there’s a fair amount of co-operation going on in and around Mill Road, and that people really are investing in their own neighbourhood – which is probably part of the reason why Mill Road has such a community feel to it.

2012 is actually International Year of Co-operatives, so there’s never been a better time to co-operate. In fact there’s rather a lot to say about co-operatives, so I might just write another article about them soon…