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)

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!

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.

Mill Road exhibition

Exhibition posterToday I went along to the Council’s Mill Road Exhibition  at Bharat Bhavan. I was immediately offered a lovely hot cup of tea – which was very much appreciated given the cold weather! There were a number of stands with information about many of the local community and residents groups in the area, as well as proposals for a traders association; and in the middle of the room was a giant map of Mill Road where people could jot down their ideas on sheets of tracing paper (which could be placed over the map) There were also some beautiful paintings and drawings of Mill Road by a couple of local artists.

Exhibition boardsIt was great to see lots of ideas from locals and there were all sorts of suggestions ranging from peoples ideas for more green space around Mill Road and a regular local market through to thoughts on the 20mph zone and improving the area for cyclists. I spoke to Ceri (Mill Road Co-ordinator and organiser of the event) and she told me that it had been well attended over the two days – and judging by the many post-it notes I saw this was most certainly the case! I jotted down my ideas, which included widening the pavement on the northern edge of Mill Road on the town side of the bridge (opposite Arjuna, Fagito’s, Nip-In et al) as it’s not currently wide enough for two people to pass each other without one of them having to step into the road. I’d also like to see cafes and shops being allowed to have tables and chairs outside (even if just one or two tables) as this would give people more of an opportunity to interact with and chat to each other and make the area even more welcoming in the summer months.

Exhibition boardI also drew a design for a new housing co-operative which could go on the site of the Mill Road Depot (which is moving at some point in the next few years). This is an idea that was suggested by a number of  people in the Local Plan consultations last year and I think it would really work for the whole community – especially as there’s a huge lack of affordable housing around Mill Road. I envisage something like a mixture of flats for single people and couples, and houses for families (little or no shared housing) on the back part of the site (furthest from Mill Road); this would have lots of green space and could house around 150 people. There would also be plenty of shared community space and at the front of the site a meeting area/hall that the co-operative would share with the whole community for free, as well as an upstairs area that could have free/low cost office space for local businesses/home-workers. There would also be a large outdoor area that could host community events such as barbecues, regular markets and other community activities. Bharat Bhavan, Regent College and other non-council buildings would of course be retained. By their very nature co-operatives are green and sustainable communities that are self-run, so the community would have the opportunity to shape and innovate their own housing and community space. In fact I suspect this deserves a blog post all of its own (!) so more on this another time.

I was glad I went along to the exhibition and I now have lots more ideas for Mill Road. If you missed out you can contact Ceri (millroadcoordinator@gmail.com) for more information. I will write another blog post soon about what will happen to the ideas and how to submit any other suggestions you may have. I think the exhibition was a really good idea and it has given people the chance to have real input into their local area.

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!

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…