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

Calling all artists…

Art 4Those of you who tuned in to me guest-presenting the ‘Our Mill Road‘ show on Cambridge 105 earlier this month will have heard me mention an exciting new community art project that’s being organised by Ceri Littlechild…

There are hoardings outside a currently vacant piece of land on Mill Road – near the Spar shop at No.301 – and although the land is already earmarked for development and the hoardings will be removed at some point, they could be improved in the mean time and made to look nicer. Ceri has been in touch with the current landowners and spoken to them about the possibility of running an art project to decorate the hoardings. They have agreed in principle though have asked for potential designs for the hoardings to be submitted, before final approval. The group is also waiting to hear if they will be able to use the other nearby hoardings which are owned by the Mosque Project.

Mill Road hoardings

Seven lead artists are needed for the project, with each working on between five and ten of the hoardings. The work of each lead artist would involve:

  • Identifying a local community group to engage in the design process (ASAP). This should preferably reach out to a diverse range of people, including local school children, minority groups, the disabled, elderly, or those with a local interest or connection. Applicants must have the appropriate certification to be able to work with children or the vulnerable.
  • Arranging one or two (as appropriate) half day workshops with that community group to sketch out 2 or 3 designs for the relevant section of the hoardings (October/November 2013)
  • Once the designs have been submitted and a final one picked by the owners, the lead artists will be responsible for conducting the installation of the art work. This part should be carried out by professional artists only, rather than involve the community group, unless lead artists have the required insurances. Lead artists may want to recruit additional volunteer artists to help (December 2013 or January 2014).
  • It is expected that the total time commitment would be 1-2 days arranging workshops, another 1-2 days carrying out the workshops and up to five days for the art work installation (depending on the medium used and any additional voluntary help).

It is hoped that there may be the possibility of getting some funding or a grant to run the project, so that lead artists can be paid for their time and materials, though this isn’t yet guaranteed.

Art 2Mill Road is a multicultural and diverse community and the art work on the hoardings should celebrate that and not cause offence to any particular group. People can use a variety of cultural references for inspiration. The work can be in any medium (i.e. print, post-up or paint), but the installation is subject to final agreement and permission from the land owner – and no painting should take place until that permission is granted. Although a date for removal of the hoardings has not yet been given, they could potentially be removed as early as June 2014 – so there is a need to begin the project soon and work on it over the winter.

This is a great opportunity to get involved in a local project and see your artwork adorning Mill Road! If you’d like to apply then please email Ceri with your name, contact details and your relevant experience/CV by 5th October: millroadcoordinator@gmail.com.

Mill Road History Project

If you’re following me on Twitter, you may have seen me mention the grant that the Mill Road History Project has now received from the Heritage Lottery Fund – following a long application process and a tense wait for news, it was announced earlier this week that the project would be receiving a grant of £99,248!

Steering Group April 2013

The Mill Road History Project began life around two years ago when a group of residents were looking into the history of Mill Road Cemetery. They wanted to leave a permanent record that would be available for future generations and their work inspired them to look into the history of other parts of Mill Road too. The project is now part of Mill Road Bridges and aims to record the memories and stories of people who live and work locally, as well as those who have memories of the area from previous years. The project will examine some of Mill Road’s significant buildings – such as Sally Ann’s and the former Mill Road Library (now Bharat Bhavan) – and the funding will be used for creating a dedicated interactive community website, hosting events and publicity for the project as well as training people to use the archives, undertake oral histories and take photographs.

The project will be officially launched later in the year. Lucy Walker, acting chair of the Project Steering Group, said: “We are thrilled to have been awarded this funding and will be asking everyone to come forward with their memories and photographs. This is a great opportunity to get involved, learn a new skill and help the project come alive“.
If you would like to get involved with the project, or have memories or photos that you’d like to share then you can email millroadhistoryproject@gmail.com.

I think the project is a fantastic idea and I will be looking through my photos to see if I have any that might be useful – I have lived around Mill Road since the 1990’s and have seen a lot of changes in that relatively short time (and I’m also well known amongst friends for always having a camera with me and taking a lot of photos!) so I suspect I may have a few… .

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!

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.

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!