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…

 

bbruun 1

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

 

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)

Cambridge’s favourite indie!

Kingston ArmsMill Road is well known for its independent shops and businesses, so it’s no surprise that the area has done so well in the Discovering Cambridge competition. Discovering Cambridge was set up by local MP Julian Huppert in January of this year to celebrate the City’s independent traders and encourage people to visit their local shops, businesses, cafes, restaurants and pubs. People have been able to vote for their favourite in a different category each month and the winners from the Mill Road area have included the following:

LimoncelloAn overall winner will be announced at the Mill Road Winter Fair on Saturday 7th December, and now’s your chance to vote for your favourite – just make sure you fill in a voting form while there’s still time. It great to see the traders and businesses around Mill Road doing so well, the best way to show your support for them is to use them – and of course vote!

Your favourite High Street

The Telegraph newspaper are running a campaign called Reinventing the High Street, aiming to put the heart back into the country’s traditional high streets. People are asked to nominate their favourite simply¬†by emailing highstreet@telegraph.co.uk.

Mill Road BridgeI don’t know about you, but I think there’s something pretty special about Mill Road and I think it deserves a place among the best that the UK has to offer. Not only is¬†the Mill Road area¬†home to Cambridge’s best independent pub, coffee house, home & garden shop, specialist food shop and record shop (all awarded this year in the Discovering Cambridge awards) and home to the Independent Drinks Retailer of The Year (as voted at the UK Drinks Retailing Awards 2013) but it’s also the location of CAMRA‘s Cambridge¬†City Locale Pub Of The Year 2013. There’s a range of events on throughout the year – including the Romsey Art Festival,¬†several street parties, various beer festivals¬†and of course the forthcoming Mill Road Winter Fair – as well as regular music nights at lots of different venues; and next week sees the first ever Romsey Calling music festival on Mill Road.

Mill Road has even been used as a location for music videos (like Mikill Pane’s ‘Good Feeling‘),¬†films (Neil Morrissey was here last month filming a new movie, Caffiend), TV programmes (including Antiques Road Trip)¬†and has had residents such as¬†Douglas Adams,¬†Dave Gilmour, Syd Barrett, Angela Hartnett¬†and Amy Williams over the years. It¬†even has its own blog and its own radio show – ‘Our Mill Road‘! There’s lots more I could say about Mill Road, but too much for one blog post (hence the whole blog!) but suffice to say it’s full of community-spirited¬†individuals and groups¬†and has lots of people¬†living, working and socialising in the area and keeping Mill Road the coolest street in Cambridge.

All you need to do to nominate Mill Road is to email highstreet@telegraph.co.uk and let them know! You know what they say – there’s something about Mill Road… .

Best indie pub

pint of beerLocal MP Julian Huppert launched his Discovering Cambridge competition in January, in order to support the independent shops and businesses we have here in Cambridge. People nominate their favourite in a different category throughout each month, with a winner announced at the end of the month. There will also be an over all winner announced at the Mill Road Winter Fair on 7th December.

The¬†Mill Road area has had winners in three of the six categories so far and now lays claim to¬†Cambridge’s best independent music shop (Rhythm Online), best independent specialist food & drink¬†outlet (Limoncello) and¬†best independent coffee shop (Hot Numbers). The category for July is best independent pub and you can nominate your favourite by email, twitter or post – see Julian Huppert’s website for more information.

Beer bottlesBest independent pub is an interesting category – the vast majority of pubs are owned by larger breweries and chains; yet¬†they are, in the main, run by a landlord and/or landlady who probably runs only that pub and who brings their own character to the place. Pubs that are part of larger breweries and chains¬†often¬†have certain restrictions placed on them (such as only being allowed to purchase their beer from a specific provider) but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t¬†plenty of¬†room for making their own unique mark in their local communities (in fact, I reckon most people would¬†be more likely able to name the¬†landlord/landlady of their local than which¬†pub company¬†it belongs to…). I’m not quite sure what definition Julian is going with for his competition (and where part-tied pubs fit in) but if it’s¬†only pubs that are not tied to¬†a larger chain or which are the only pub¬†run by that tenant/owner, then that leaves just a¬†small handful in Cambridge.

Earl of BeaconsfieldI’m going to¬†nominate the Earl of Beaconsfield – Susie¬†and Matt took over the pub last October and have made it into a really lovely¬†place that not only¬†looks after¬†its existing regulars but is welcoming to new visitors¬†too. There’s all sorts of¬†regular music nights (Sunday blues jam, Monday open mic session, Tuesday acoustic jam, Thursday Irish music session and regular jazz Saturdays) and they’re all free, the back room that was¬†previously out of bounds has now been completely transformed into a large games room, the pub now serves food¬†and the beer garden has also had a much needed makeover. They’ve also set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for the pub, as well as recently launching a brand new website. Given all the¬†hard work¬†Susie and Matt have put in to the Beaccy and the great changes that have come as a result in such a short space of time (and bearing in mind the fact that they had never run a pub before!)¬†I think they thoroughly deserve some recognition for their efforts.

Mill Road itself has lost¬†over 60%¬†of its public houses in the last twelve years alone, and now just two pubs remain.¬†So there’s never been a more important time to make sure you use your local, and the sunny weather¬†is the perfect time¬†to try out the ones you haven’t been to for a while or visited before. Just¬†don’t forget to nominate your favourite indie pub by 31st July (tomorrow!).

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 Рfor 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.

What‚Äôs your favourite coffee shop?

MP Julian Huppert has just launched a competition ‚Äď Discovering Cambridge ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôt be too hard to do around Mill Road!).

The category for January is ‚ÄėBest Coffee Shop‚Äô 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‚Äôm fairly sure I know a coffee shop when I see one, it’s worth noting that¬†as well as being ‚Äúa shop where different types of coffee are sold, either to drink or as beans or powder‚ÄĚ the term ‘coffee shop’ can also refer to ‚Äúa small informal restaurant where drinks and small meals are served, sometimes in a larger shop or building‚ÄĚ –¬†so¬†I assume that¬†caf√©‚Äôs 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, Caf√© De Paris, Hot Numbers Coffee, Limoncello,¬†CB1, Cornerstone, Rotana, BLD‚Äôs, 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äď so make sure you go and enjoy some of the local cafes¬†this month.

Also Рthose 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 Рso do join in the conversation on Twitter or Facebook and let me know what would be on your list.