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)

Music scene must be heard!

The Man On The MoonI had originally intended to write this blog article a few months ago and for it to be about our music venues in this part of the City. I was going to lament that although the Boat Race is now long gone and Anglia Ruskin University no longer has a weekly line-up of gigs open to the public, at least we still have the Man On The Moon as a last remaining dedicated medium-sized gig venue. However, it was announced a couple of months ago the the Man On The Moon would be closing at the start of October, and even after protests it sadly did close at the start of this month.

Landlord John and his family moved from the White Hart pub (which became the Back Street Bistro restaurant) on Sturton Street in 2000 to take over at the Man On The Moon, and over the next thirteen years the pub became well known both locally and further afield for its music. They’ve hosted some big names over the years – including Therapy? and Wendy James from Transvision Vamp – as well as regular music nights across all genres including hip-hop, soul and rockabilly and even lindy hop dancing.

The Man On The Moon has now been taken over by new leaseholders and a new landlord has also been chosen. Although they are keen to open the pub again soon, I am not yet sure when this will be (the new landlord has also already taken on another local pub – The Royal Standard, on Mill Road). Following on from its closure there had been a peaceful protest in the form of a community cafe at the Man On The Moon, but that came to an end last week. However, the previous ‘Moon team are still booking gigs at other venues and are planning for the future, so if you want to get in touch with them you can contact them via the details on their website.

Man On The Moon

Since we’re on the subject of losing music venues, it seems only right that I mention the Boat Race on East Road – which I’m sure many of you will remember. It was a dedicated gig venue that had music seven days a week and was known for hosting up and coming talent – the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Placebo, Oasis and Groove Armada all played there before making it ‘big’ – including local bands and artists such Right Turn Clyde, Ezio and The Broken Family Band. The Boat Race closed almost ten years ago – much to the dismay of local music lovers – and although there were campaigns to save it (and bring it back ) it was sold and eventually became The Snug.

Man On The MoonOf course the Portland Arms (and in recent times also the Cornerhouse) put on some great gigs and are well known locally for hosting up and coming bands like Beverley Kills and favourites such as Editors, Akira The Don, Carter USM and Ellie Goulding – but it’s on the other side of town; and besides, a City with a population in excess of 120,000 surely deserves more than one dedicated  medium-sized venue, doesn’t it…? The last year has thankfully seen an increase in gigs happening on and around Mill Road and a number of the local pubs and cafes now have regular music nights. However, the last remaining dedicated medium sized gig venue in this part of the City was the Man On The Moon.

Given the current lack of local music venue and the need for action to make sure our music scene doesn’t suffer any further, there will be a special meeting TONIGHT to talk about making things happen!

The ‘Campaign for a Music Venue’ open meeting will take place at The Hopbine (sister pub to the Portland Arms) from 7:30pm. It’s a public meeting and all are welcome, so if you support the idea of creating/developing a dedicated music venue, you have some ideas on how it could work or you just want to find out more, then make sure you go along tonight.

‘Campaign for a Music Venue’ open meeting – 7:30pm, Tuesday 15th October
The Hopbine, 11-12 Fair Street CB1 3HA

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 – it 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…!

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!

Strawberry Shorts

The Strawberry Shorts Film Festival takes place annually the day before Strawberry Fair. As well as being an integral part of the Fair for the last thirteen years, the event is now also an established film festival in its own right and receives national support and international recognition.

Strawberry ShortsRun by Cambridge Cinema Shorts, this years Strawberry Shorts will take place on Friday 31st May at the Cambridge Festival Theatre. As well as lots of film screenings, there will be awards for Best Overall Festival Winner and Best Local Short Film, with two awards – The Audience Award and The Jury Award – for each category. Last years Festival saw over 250 films enter the competition and the closing date for this years entries was 20th April, with preparations now well under way for the festival itself in just three weeks time.

Tomorrow night sees a special Strawberry Shorts benefit screening taking place at Cambridge Art Salon. There will be a number of films shown, including ‘longer’ films that are slightly too long for the festival itself (the limit is 20 minutes) but which are excellent in their own right and deserve a screening. The night starts at 7:30pm and tickets are available on the door priced £3 – with all proceeds going to Strawberry Shorts. I am also reliably informed that there will be tea, coffee and cake!

Strawberry Shorts benefit screening – Friday 10th May, 7:30pm
Cambridge Art Salon, 29 Cromwell Road CB1 3EB. Tickets £3 on the door.

Orange buttercream marmalade sponge

Orange buttercream spongeI’ve been an avid viewer of the Comic Relief Celebrity British Bake Off over the last few days and have spent a lot of time dreaming about a multitude of cakey possibilities. So with Saturday all to myself, I decided that a spot of creativity was in order. I looked through the Bake Off recipes online and after much salivating and deliberation (would a hive cake really be a step too far??) decided that a two layered cake ‘seemed’ doable. I had never made one before, but figured it was about time I tried…

Beehive CakeI had planned to make two sponge cake layers sandwiched together with some buttercream and raspberry jam, with more buttercream on the top and fresh raspberries for decoration. But there were no raspberries in the shops of Romsey and I had to improvise. So I decided to use marmalade and oranges instead of jam and raspberries. I bought all the ingredients at the Co-operative though I must mention that Hilary’s were very helpful indeed and said they’d have some raspberries for me first thing on Sunday morning – which was great, as I will be making another cake very soon!

I started by lining two 7 inch cake tins with very soft butter and put a circular cut out of baking paper in the base of each, and I put the oven on to gas mark 4. I had looked at a few sponge cake recipes and they all seemed to suggest that for the cake mix I would need equal amounts of sugar, butter and flour plus an egg for every 200g or so of dry mix. So I started by mixing 250g of softened unsalted butter with 250g of caster sugar. I then beat four eggs into the mixture followed by 250g of self raising flour, and gave this all a good mix with an electric mixer. The consistency seemed a bit thick (it had been suggested that a ‘dropping’ consistency was best) so I mixed in a couple of tablespoons of milk to soften it up a little.

Marmalade layerI then added my mixture to the cake tins and levelled them off with a spatula before putting in the oven for about 30 minutes. As they were pretty big cake tins they wouldn’t both fit on one shelf, so I swapped them over half way through cooking. When they were ready (looked golden on top and a skewer I inserted came out clean) I took them out of the oven and put them to one side for a few minutes to rest; and after about ten minutes I removed them from the tins and put on wire racks to cool completely. It was now time to make the buttercream – I made sure I used soft butter and continually stirred about 200g of it whilst gradually mixing in 400g of icing sugar – this got quite messy and it was at this point I realised I had forgotten to put my apron on! When it reached a smooth consistency I stirred in the zest of an orange.

Orange buttercream spongeOnce my sponge cakes had cooled completely it was time to get layering! I spread a thick layer of marmalade over the top of one of the cakes (I would have made my own marmalade but didn’t have time this weekend, though will definitely be trying it at some point given the success of my jam attempt). I then turned the other cake upside down and spread a thick layer of the orange buttercream over it, making sure I spread it right up to the edges. Then I flipped the creamed cake back over and placed on top of the marmaladed one (this had to be done in one swift move!). This looked pretty tasty, but I still had plenty of buttercream left and was determined to make something that had more of an aesthetic wow so I spread the remaining buttercream over the top of the cake. I also had a little bit of orange zest left so sprinkled this over the cake. The result – delicious orange buttercream marmalade sponge!

I was very pleased with my first ever layered cake. Though when I took the cakes out of the oven they hadn’t risen quite as much as I’d hoped, so next time I will probably add a teaspoon or two of baking powder to the cake mixture – I was reading the Afternoon Tease blog yesterday and spotted that she had made a very similar cake last year, and the only difference in the sponge mix was that she had added a little baking powder (if only I’d spotted her recipe before I made my cake…!).

Delicious homemade orange buttercream and marmalade sponge cake!

My friends and neighbours were also very pleased with my baking efforts, for which they are a very willing set of ‘testers’ (!) and now there’s only two slices left. In fact, make that just one slice…!

Mill Road Shindig!

Shindig is a regular gig night that aims to bring together music and arts all in one event. It has been running since last year and this week it’s coming to Mill Road! Each gig is different and organiser Wesley Freeman-Smith says that the aim is to:
break down barriers between creative disciplines so that visual artists, musicians, spoken word and performance artists can work together to make something unique”.

Shindig PosterOn Saturday 26th January Shindig will be at St Philips on Mill Road and Wesley describes the event as “three acts of diverse heritage, all held together by the luminous thread that is narrative”. The show includes punk/folk/rock/pop film and book soundtracks from the Retrospective Soundtrack Players; psychological instrumental sounds from Subzar and their new EP ‘I Am Not Yet Here’; and folk/pop from Anglo-American duo Rue Royale. Fay Roberts, J S Watts and Emily Scialom will also be performing and other local authors, poets and wordsmiths are welcome to get involved – for more information please check out Shindig’s Facebook page.

We’ve got a lot of talented creative people locally and I think this sounds like just the kind of thing Cambridge needs. In fact, as Wesley himself says:
Cambridge has never lacked talent, but it has lacked an appropriate venue to showcase this, and some sense of cohesion between everyone’s creative bubbles”.
So if you’re free on Saturday and fancy a gig with a difference, why not pop along to Shindig!

Shindig – Rue Royale/Subzar/Retrospective Soundtrack Players + guests
Saturday 26th January, 8pm at St Philips Church (185 Mill Road CB1 3AN).
Tickets £6 advance/£8 on the door – see the event’s Facebook page or Wegottickets