Let’s Rock the Moor

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Get ready to rock the moor in Cookham

It’s festival season and there are so many to suit every musical taste – if retro style is your thing then Let’s Rock The Moor in Cookham is for you.

Celebrating 10 years this year, Let’s Rock The Moor began in 2009 as a charity event attended by 1,200 people and headlined by Nick Heyward (who remains part of the Let’s Rock family). In 2019, almost 10 times that audience will be treated to non-stop entertainment and hits from many of the biggest names from the 80s including Erasure’s Andy Bell, Marc Almond, Shalamar, Jason Donovan, Go West and Nik Kershaw.

This is the first of 12 Let’s Rock festivals taking place over the summer, expected to attract in excess of 150,000 party goers who will be entertained by some of the biggest names of the era, with different line-ups.

Let’s Rock organisers Nick Billinghurst & Matt Smith said: “We’re really proud of what we’ve created with Let’s Rock and it’s such a thrill to work with so many iconic artists.

“What makes Let’s Rock truly special is our amazingly loyal and up-for-it audience, and every year we strive to improve their experience. Here’s to our best Let’s Rock summer yet!”

Let’s Rock continues to work with many amazing charities including Child Bereavement UK, The Wooden Spoon, and The Link Foundation. They also work with local charities wherever possible. To date almost half a million pounds has been raised for children’s charities by The Let’s Rock brand.

Let’s Rock is a family-friendly festival; children can enjoy complimentary activities within the ‘Kids’ Kingdom’. For adults, there are multiple bars and a ‘Club Tropicana’ VIP area, plus of course the all-important posh loos.

To find out more and book tickets go to Let’s Rock the Moor

Green Day’s American Idiot

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Here’s why you should catch this powerful musical at Reading’s Hexagon between now and Saturday, 4th May, writes Peter Anderson

Three childhood friends in post 9/11 America are each seeking for a meaning. That was the inspiration for Green Day’s Grammy winning album, fifteen years ago “American Idiot”. Ten years ago, came the musical with lyrics Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong and a book by Billy Joe and Mike Mayer. The musical won two Tony awards and another Grammy award for best show album. Now the musical is touring the UK and comes to Reading and Wimbledon as part of the tenth anniversary tour. The show stars singer-songwriter Luke Friend (X-Factor), Tom Milner (The Voice and Waterloo Road) and introducing Sam Lavery (X-Factor and Capital FM) as Whatsername.

Peter Anderson caught up with the lovely Sam and asked how she discovered her love and talent for singing. I had often sung around the home as a child, then we had a school trip out to Holy Island that included a talent competition. A lot of the lads did football tricks, some of the girls did dancing and for some unknown reason I had a go at singing. From that moment on that was the way I wanted to go, when I came back from the holiday, I started singing lessons and entered competitions.

Whereas unlike Tom she did not have the chance to sing for Tom Jones, one of her relatives and her inspiration has. “I only have one inspiration, my grandfather. When he was younger, he was a backing singer for a while for Tom Jones and could have made a career of it. But that career would have been in London and he had a young family in the North-East. He decided to forgo the possible career and go down the mines to look after his family. I am so glad that he can now enjoy my success and see what I am doing, and he has been very supportive to me.”

So, what can audiences look forward to in the explosive rock musical that is “Green Day’s American Idiot”? “Very like a gig combined with an emotional roller-coaster ride, we have a live backing band between the three of us. I think it is the kind of show where you leave it humming the tunes and then slowly the issues that the musical also raises dawn on you.”

The three of you are more known as singers than for acting, how did you work on the characterisations? “All three of us major characters have been given a lot of help about the research to do with the complex issues the songs raise. The other idea that I really found helpful was that we were made to read the lyrics time and time again without the music. This gave us the time to really grasp the meaning of the words and who we were singing them to.”

For your chance to see this powerful musical that has introduced a new generation of theatregoers to Green Day’s music the show comes to Reading this week and Wimbledon later in May. It is at the Hexagon from Tuesday 30th April to Saturday 4th May, and the New Theatre Wimbledon between 14th and 18th May.

  For full information on performances and tickets visit www.readingarts.com or www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-wimbedon-theatre.

Avenue Q

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An irresistibly charming tale of the loveable characters on a downtown New York street trying to make sense of life’s burning issues comes to the Reading Hexagon this week.

Avenue Q was created by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, co-creator of Book of Mormon and writer of the songs for Disney’s Frozen. It won the Tony Awards “Triple Crown” for best musical, best score and best book.
Peter Anderson chatted to Lawrence Smith who plays Princeton in Avenue Q.  “I came late to acting,” he says, “my first love was singing. As a teenager, I sang with the National Youth Choir of Scotland. I trained as a classical singer with the Royal Academy of Music and Royal Scottish Conservatoire before moving into musical theatre. If the acoustics are right, backstage there is always a chance I may burst into some Purcell!”
Who has been the inspiration for Lawrence as he has widened his skillset from being a classical singer? “Without a doubt, Audra McDonald. Like me, she trained as a classical singer” in her case at the Julliard. She has won six Tony awards across all four acting categories and is equally at home on Broadway or performing with Houston Grand Opera.

Speaking of widening his skillset, is this the first time Lawrence has worked with puppets? “Absolutely, it’s a challenge combining acting and being true to the character and also manipulating the puppets and keeping everything under control.” He may have not worked with puppets, but he has certainly learned how to handle gadgetry on stage, one of his recent roles was the lead in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd!

What can the Hexagon audience look forward to? “An evening of mischief, bad behaviour and political incorrectness! There are loads of funny songs, and everyone knows it has adult content. But I think the thing that the audience can look forward to is being surprised by the story. With people concentrating more on the songs, etc. I think the story and what it says about human relationships is something that almost tends to creep up on people without them realising.

Princeton has recently graduated with a BA in English – useful for – well we’ll see, he thinks he is a “bright young thing”. Heavily influenced by what he has seen on television he moves to New York, the place where all bright young things hang out. He arrives at Avenue Q, a veritable modern day Cheers, the apartment block where everyone knows your name! There he is greeted by a mixture of loveable and unforgettable characters who help not to not only guide him through New York, but also help him to discover who he is.

Well Avenue Q is the apartment block where Princeton ends up, but who would be the neighbours in Lawrence’s dream apartment block? “Dream is probably an interesting thought. It would be a dream for me, but perhaps not others in the area. I think I would love to live in an apartment block with Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. They would be a lovely group to sing with.”

New York is Princeton’s dream place to live, but does Lawrence have some dream places where he would love  to perform “I have been lucky enough to perform at The Globe and the Old Vic and being Scottish it is great that the run of Avenue Q is taking me up to some Scottish venues. The one place I haven’t managed to perform at so far is the National Theatre, that would be great.”

Avenue Q is part flesh, part felt and all heart.

An evening of mischief, bad behaviour and political incorrectness!

The show runs from today until Saturday, 27th April (advisory age 14+ mature themes). To book your tickets call 01889 9606060 or visit the Hexagon website

Henley House & Garden Show

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Looking for some inspiration for your home and garden, the head to the Henley House & Garden Show at the weekend. 

The show is returning to Henley town centre and the historic town hall on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd March with more than 65 exhibitors of high-end interior and garden goods and services as well as speakers, entertainment, competitions and more. 

Exhibitors include architects and curtain-makers, hot tub suppliers, cars and garages, cushions, candles and infusers, ceramics, garden sculpture and a boat. Designers for gardens, interiors, lighting and sustainability are available for expert advice, plus conveyancing specialists, home-builders and finance advisors. Home décor stands abound and all styles of furniture are covered from Italian dining tables to antiques, farmhouse tables and chairs to ‘living edge’ tabletop consoles. 

The show’s theme is conservation – both of the home (through sustainable recycling and time-honoured building traditions) and of the garden where butterflies and bees do such hard work.  These insects are the show’s symbols as they appeal to both garden and home lovers.  The RSPB and the Woodland Trust will be exhibiting as well as Henley’s own conservation and garden societies who will be in the town hall. Honeys of Henley will be giving a bee and honey tasting talk too. 

Local school children have been involved in an arts and poetry competition to draw bees and butterflies and the winning drawings and poems will be displayed at the show. There will also be a photography competition that will be overseen by the Henley College. Hashtag #HHGS19 on Instagram to send in your winning photos. 

Demonstrations, coordinated by the Creative Duck, will take place throughout the weekend on the stage in the central marquee. Displays include lampshade making, life drawing, building a hedgehog hotel, and tile painting. Local chefs will also be cooking at the Tara Neil Kitchen stand offering delicious treats to try. 

Three speaking events are taking place in the town hall, two on Saturday and another on Sunday. 

Tickets cost only £5 and all proceeds are going to the development of the garden at the Chiltern Centre for disabled children, a respite centre in Henley. 

Also on Sunday there will be  two Lego workshops for children at a cost of £15. 

To find out more visit www.thehenleyhouseandgardeshow.com 

Let’s Sing: The Hexagon

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Photo credit: Reading Arts

Choirs to battle it out for Mayor of Reading’s Let’s Sing 2019.

A “fantastic night of entertainment” is promised when 14 local choirs sing their hearts out to be the Mayor of Reading’s Let’s Sing champion 2019. 

Six youth and eight community choirs will be battling it out for the trophy at The Hexagon on Wednesday, 6th March 

The youth choirs are: Calcot School Choir, Crosfields Chamber Choir, Jewel Tones, JMA Performing Arts, St Anne’s Primary School Choir and St Martin’s Glee Club.  

The line up for the community choirs is: Arborfield Military Wives Choir, Acquired Taste, The Barberettes, Reading Borough Council Staff Choir, Reading Community Gospel Choir, Readiphonics, Time to Sing Choir and Wargrave Community Choir.  

A winner will be chosen in each category and an overall Let’s Sing champion.  

Proceeds from the show will go to Mayor Debs Edwards chosen charities for the year – Berkshire Women’s Aid, Launchpad, Berkshire West Your Way and the YMCA. 

Cllr Edwards says: “We have got an outstanding selection of choirs taking part in this year’s Let’s Sing final. I think my fellow judges and I will have our work cut out selecting the winners. 

“It is going to be a fantastic night of entertainment and I would love to see The Heaxgon packed with supporters and music lovers enjoying the show and raising money for the Mayor’s Charity Fund.” 

The final starts at 6.30pm and tickets are £9.50, concs £4.50, family ticket £20.

  To book call the box office on 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com