Learn to Play Day

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Photo credit: Indigo James

Pick up an instrument and Learn to Play this weekend for free

Feel there’s a budding Eric Clapton or Charlie Watts just trying to get out or maybe you just want to give your guitar or drumming skills an outing? This is the perfect opportunity to give it a go…

Share in the joy of music on Learn to Play Day – actually two days – Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th,  as venues all over the country encourage thousands to pick up and play a musical instrument, whether you’ve never played before or once did as a child this is your chance to have a go for free.

The event has been running for eight years and in that time music shops, teachers, venues and schools have given tens of thousands of free lessons, including 10,000 last year alone.

Learn to Play Day (or two days to be precise) is run by charity Music For All and supported by a host of big names including Jools Holland, patron of the Music For All charity.

“I’m delighted to lend my support to National Learn to Play Day on March 23rd and 24th,” says Jools. “It’s a pleasure to be able to share the joy of music and this special day allows thousands to get involved as venues all over the country offer music lessons for free.”

Jazz star Jamie Cullum is another supporting the event. He says: “National Learn to Play Day gives everyone a chance to play an instrument, even if they’ve never played before. This wonderful day introduces thousands to the magic of music making, and often reunites people with a lost passion for playing. Get involved and perhaps discover a skill you thought you didn’t have.”

Spreading the joy of playing an instrument is the key element of the two days, as Music For All CEO Paul McManus explains: “While we all may have different tastes and preferred genres, there is no doubt that music is something that is universally loved around the world.

“Our Learn to Play Day events are all about spreading the joy of playing and inspiring those of all ages to take up something that will not only have health benefits for the future, but that also brings so many people together.”

Other Music For All ambassadors include Rick Astley, Aled Jones and Gareth Malone and who knows this could be your first foray into following in their footsteps!

Photo credit: Brian Slater

Photo credit: Alan Fletcher

There are various locations where you can begin your musical journey across the region:

Hickies Music Store, Reading 0118 957 5771
Hogan Music, Newbury 01635 37868
PMT Oxford, Cowley Road 01865 725221
Langdale Hall, Market Square, Witney 07904 397603
Archway School, Stroud 01452 330300
ACM, Bridge Street, Guildford 01483 501212
The College of Richard Collyer, Horsham 07470 964369
Westmount Music, Marlow 01628 481510
Unity Centre, Balham 020 8672 8095
Musicroom London, Denmark Street 020 7632 3950
Yamaha Music London, Wardour Street 020 7432 4400
PMT Music, Clerkenwell 020 7253 3283

DownRight Amazing

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As it’s World Down Syndrome Day this month (Thursday, 21st March), we’re celebrating a positive campaign this month to raise awareness and funds for a very special charity.

Teddy is a smart, funny, wonderful little boy who puts a smile on the face of everyone he meets. “He’s exactly the way he should be and we wouldn’t change him for the world,” says his proud mum Emily Reay, “but it would be nice if the world would change for him…”

Teddy (pictured) is one of 21 poster stars who, along with their families, are helping raise awareness about Down’s Syndrome (DS). Photographer Magdalena Sztechman, whose sister has Down’s Syndrome, grew up in Poland where she attended regular educational therapy groups and workshops. She wanted to create a positive picture of diversity and similar sense of community here in the UK. Last spring she photographed a sweet little girl called Cara who happens to have Down’s Syndrome and the reaction was hugely positive. “I felt inspired to raise awareness and decided I wanted to do another photo session this year,” explains Magdalena. “This cause is very close to my heart.”

With the help Sparkles, a small, parent-led support charity that offers speech and language therapy and more, 22 willing families got in touch. The resulting images of her subjects will be celebrated on social media daily from 1st March.

“People with Down’s Syndrome can achieve much more than most people can even imagine,” adds Magdalena. “The key is early intervention and extra, well-timed support. It is very important for me to ensure my own daughters understand diversity, the importance of inclusion and that they are naturally open-minded.”

Teddy’s mum Emily is delighted her son is helping to challenge outdated and negative perceptions about Down’s Syndrome. “I didn’t need a test or a doctor to tell me [that he had Down’s Syndrome],” adds Emily of his birth. “I wasn’t sure what this was going to mean for us, but he’s taken my hand and led the way. Don’t be afraid, don’t say sorry, don’t doubt him, don’t treat him differently. Only he can determine what he can and cannot do, my job is to simply provide the love and support to help him achieve his goals. The sky’s the limit.”

Sparkles was started in 1999 by a small group of parents of children with DS who wanted to be able to offer their children more speech therapy than was available through the NHS. To find out more and donate please visit www.sparkles.org.uk
Also visit www.sztechman-photography.co.uk

● Join the social media campaign @randamag will be supporting – #DownRightAmazing

Glorious Gardens

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With spring bursting into life, there can be no better time to get out and enjoy what’s on offer in some of the finest gardens you’re ever likely to see.

The bright patches of colour showing through after the grey of winter are a welcome sight, guaranteed to raise the spirits and none more so than those offered from the beautiful gardens in the area. Carpets of seasonal snowdrops and daffodils cover much of the grounds with swathes of blooms in all hues just beginning to break through.

CHOOSE YOUR AREA:

Pictures: National Trust

Henley hits a high!

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As the UK’s only black-tie festival, Henley Festival, between 10th and 14th July is glamour personified, offering Michelin-starred food, award winning comedians, critically acclaimed artists and the biggest names in popular, world, jazz and classical music.

Many festival goers arrive by boat, and the green lawns of the festival are transformed into a Great Gatsby vision, as black tie clad revellers spill across the festival site, champagne in hand, while fireworks explode overhead.

Established 37 years ago as a classical music charity event, Henley Festival continues to be run on a not for profit basis supporting charitable projects at both a national and local level. This year grants from the festival will go to two charities. Dedicated to supporting young people with depression, and encouraging discussions around mental health, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust was set up in memory of a young man who took his own life whilst suffering from depression. The Teenage Wilderness Trust supports students who find it difficult to engage with mainstream education by offering reengagement courses using bush craft, wilderness learning techniques and practical life skills to encourage students to get back into learning.

Pop icon and mega star Boy George will open the festival on Wednesday 10th July night. Universally recognised as one of the music scenes most iconic artists Boy George was recently presented with the Ivor Novello lifetime achievement award.The new-wave legend will bring his extravagant showmanship to Henley to kick start UK’s most dazzling festival weekend of the year.

On the Thursday night, multi-platinum selling artist Jessie J will return for the first concert of a three-year retrospective bringing back some of Henley Festival’s most popular artists. On Friday night, the festival audience are in for a treat as Brit Award and Ivor Novello-winning songwriting sensation Tom Odell takes to the floating stage.  In a Henley Festival first, Friday night’s performance by Tom Odell will be followed by a DJ set on the floating stage by the legendary Jo Whiley! Bringing you all the best tracks from the greatest decade for music, think Blur vs Oasis, Fatboy Slim, Primal Scream, The Verve, The Chemical Brothers, Faithless, The Prodigy and a whole lot more.

If you love Mamma Mia! Saturday night is for you, as Henley Festival welcomes the internationally acclaimed BJÖRN AGAIN show. Designed as a rocked-up light-hearted satirical ABBA spoof, the show rapidly achieved world-wide Cult status and acknowledged for singlehandedly initiating the ABBA revival which brought about ABBA Gold, Muriel’s Wedding and Mamma Mia! Hailed as “the closest thing you can get to seeing ABBA” by Benny Anderson himself, this brilliant band will bring the party and leave you with very sore feet! Henley Festival is delighted to announce that Classic FM’s popular film music programme Saturday Night at the Movies will be brought to life with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Pete Harrison, with guest soloists Johanna Röhrig (violin), Oliver Poole (piano) presented by popular Classic FM presenter Aled Jones. This special showcase will be filled with popular classical music used in iconic films from the past 50 years together with some of the greatest Oscar-winning original soundtracks.

The 2019 comedy line-up is set to be bigger and better than ever, with the likes of Ed Byrne, Andy Hamilton, Julian Clary and Murray Lachlan-Young among the biggest names of the 20 comedians performing at this year’s Festival. The comedy line up will also include a very special performance by the Richard Herring who will be recording the show for his podcast with Barry Cryer. One of Britain’s favourite comedians Julian Clary will also be bringing his jaw-achingly funny show to Henley. Brit pop era gem, stand up performer and poet Murray Lachlan-Young will present his latest stand up brilliance at Henley. After performing with the likes of Dita vo Teese and The Pretenders, Lachlan-Young’s set is not to be missed. In addition, up and coming comics including Vikki Stone, Kai Samra, Steve Bugeja and Luke Kempner will also be keeping audiences entertained.

Henley Festival’s very own Jazz Club in the stunning Spiegel Tent offers dining and live jazz music before and after the main headline act. Hailed as one of UK’s supreme boogie piano players after working with heavy weights such as The Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry, The Ben Waters Quartet will open Henley’s Jazz Club on Wednesday night with his delicious melting pot of musical influences. On Thursday night, The Dime Notes will bring their blues-drenched 1920s style New Orleans Jazz to Henley.

And there are loads more highlights including world and folk music in the Bedouin tent, Afrosamba are a Brazilian band covering styles such as Afro Brazilian Jazz, Samba and Bossa Nova.

Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett MBE will return to Henley Festival 2019 to run Europe’s biggest field restaurant, creating a bespoke menu exclusively for Henley, at the Riverside Restaurant. Angela Hartnett’s astonishingly creative, flawlessly executed dishes focus on purity of flavour and reverence for ingredients. A festival for food lovers, Henley caters for all tastes offering a huge number of restaurants and pop ups from street food to fine dining. Restaurant’s popping up at the festival will include Garden Bistro by Jimmy Garcia, Game Keeper, Halloumi Guys, BBQ Club and Snob Lobster, Hotel Chocolat, Jessecco Prosecco, Tonbo Japanese Kitchen and many more.

Artist duo Mike Blow and Alison Ballard will bring their unique British Arts Council backed audio visual installation Colony to the festival. Consisting of seven large spherical, sonic sculptures, the installation allow the audience to experience the physicality of sound through listening, touching, and hugging. Sculpture artists Brendon Hesmondhalgh and Laura Jane Wylder will also provide major works that will be placed around the festival site in addition to a plethora of galleries taking part in this year’s festival.

Henley Festival’s very own Jazz Club in the stunning Spiegel Tent offers dining and live jazz music before and after the main headline act. Hailed as one of UK’s supreme boogie piano players after working with heavy weights such as The Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry, The Ben Waters Quartet will open Henley’s Jazz Club on Wednesday night with his delicious melting pot of musical influences. On Thursday night, The Dime Notes will bring their blues-drenched 1920s style New Orleans Jazz to Henley.

And there are loads more highlights including world and folk music in the Bedouin tent, Afrosamba are a Brazilian band covering styles such as Afro Brazilian Jazz, Samba and Bossa Nova.

Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett MBE will return to Henley Festival 2019 to run Europe’s biggest field restaurant, creating a bespoke menu exclusively for Henley, at the Riverside Restaurant. Angela Hartnett’s astonishingly creative, flawlessly executed dishes focus on purity of flavour and reverence for ingredients. A festival for food lovers, Henley caters for all tastes offering a huge number of restaurants and pop ups from street food to fine dining. Restaurant’s popping up at the festival will include Garden Bistro by Jimmy Garcia, Game Keeper, Halloumi Guys, BBQ Club and Snob Lobster, Hotel Chocolat, Jessecco Prosecco, Tonbo Japanese Kitchen and many more.

Artist duo Mike Blow and Alison Ballard will bring their unique British Arts Council backed audio visual installation Colony to the festival. Consisting of seven large spherical, sonic sculptures, the installation allow the audience to experience the physicality of sound through listening, touching, and hugging. Sculpture artists Brendon Hesmondhalgh and Laura Jane Wylder will also provide major works that will be placed around the festival site in addition to a plethora of galleries taking part in this year’s festival.

And while the festival is an adult only event, Sunday daytime sees the festival turned into a huge playground for families and kids of all ages, with activities and entertainers, who captivate and enchant. 2019’s Family Sunday offers balloon making, glitter tattoos, music lessons, comedy for kids, toddler disco, choir performances. Comedian Murray Lachlan-Young will also be bringing his special performance of Modern Cautionary Tales for Children to Henley and Turn Around Theatre will be presenting the tale of The Thief, Fox and The Phoenix at the festival.

Dreamscape designs

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Spring is almost here and now is the perfect time to focus on creating your dream outside space…

Each of us have our own personal idea of a fantasy garden. With the RHS Malvern and Chelsea flower shows on the horizon and croci poking their little heads out of the soil, there is hope in the air.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is encouraging us all to get busy, with tips on how to grow a colourful container and transform suburban and smaller spaces for the nation’s health and the environment. Whether you’re planning a cottage garden or formal city space, signature plants can help you achieve your dream look. Pulling off a convincing Mediterranean garden is a popular aspiration for many UK gardeners – start with a few choice plants and you won’t go far wrong.

A recent poll of Home & Gardens readers uncovered garden-lovers’ ultimate dream garden components (your own private folly, anyone?!). Dreaming big is always encouraged but you can also make a huge impact to your outside space, however small, front and back, by taking some small, practical-minded steps now.

A visit to a friendly local garden centre will be sure to leave you thriving with great ideas, especially for Mother’s Day. Horticultural experts will be happy to discuss your own personal oasis, using what you have as a starting point.

Decorative paving can make a huge difference to your outdoor space, creating the ideal vista from which to admire your trees and planting and perhaps set up a barbecue and dining area in time for the summer sunshine. Perhaps your patio is looking a little tired, weary or discoloured? Whether it be natural stone or concrete, you can transform it with the right treatment but it’s vital to seek expert treatment. Be careful of cleaning products that may contain an acid-based cleaner as these can affect natural stone, especially if it’s limestone. So ask your local supplier who can advise which product is best for your type of paving to make sure it’s looking its best without causing damage.

Also think about refreshing your garden furniture. Alison Chatten, trend expert and head of design at leading British soft seating brand Icon adds: “With evenings growing longer and temperatures starting to rise, spring brings a sense of renewal and revitalisation. The palm house trend continues to be a strong theme, as well as bright clashing Latin American-inspired designs – it’s all about bringing energy to your living spaces.

“Drawing on colours and themes already in the home, and using these outside, will create the impression of more space by harmoniously bringing the two areas together. Brightly painted pieces such as vases complemented with vibrant flowers, clashing colours and patterns are great for bringing life to your outdoor space.”

Wishing you all a fantastic spring!

Life of pie: March recipes

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Homity pie

Popular in the 1970s and ’80s, homity pies were often seen as somewhat worthy – leathery, unappetising with a smug crust. But we thought this pie deserved a second look. This recipe is the grandson of those early pies and – we bashfully believe – a great improvement. We’ve cut down on the potatoes to make it less heavy and added some broccoli and other root veg – although you can vary these as you like. Celeriac and swede would also work well. A great veggie dish that can be enjoyed by all.

(Prep: 10mins – Cooking: 20 mins – Serves: 4-6)

Ingredients:

• 400g waxy potatoes, diced
• 300g carrots, diced
• 150g turnips, diced
• 200g small broccoli florets
• 15g butter
• Two onions, thickly sliced
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 175g Cheddar cheese, grated
• 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
• 50ml milk or water
• 1 tsp Dijon mustard
• 200ml double cream
• Sea salt
Pastry:
• 125g plain flour
• 125g wholemeal flour
• 150g cold butter, diced
• 1 egg, beaten

Method:

Put the flour, butter and a pinch of salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and just enough cold water to bind. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film, and chill in the fridge. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add potatoes, carrots and turnips and bring back to the boil. Cook for four minutes, then add the broccoli. Cook until the vegetables are just done but still with a little bite – about another two minutes. Drain and leave to cool. While the veg is cooking, melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are soft and lightly coloured. Add the garlic and cook for two more minutes. Remove pan from the heat and set aside. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Put the cooled veg into a large bowl, add 100g of the cheese and the parsley, mix and set aside. Roll out the pastry and line a 20cm cake tin or a deep pie dish. Spoon the filling over. Whisk the milk and mustard to make a thin paste, then stir this into the cream. Season with a little salt. Pour this mix in a slow and steady stream over the filling so it soaks through the layers of vegetables. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until the pastry is crisp and cheese has melted and started to brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Salmon pie with spinach

 

Not many people know this about us but we are both keen fishermen. One time when we’d caught loads of trout in a river in Scotland we made this pie and it was so good that we wanted you to have some too. We found it tastes even better with salmon which is harder to catch but easy to find in the supermarket!

(Prep: 10 mins, Cooking: 20 mins, Serves: 4)

Ingredients:

• 4–5 tbsp hollandaise sauce
• 500g salmon fillet
• 450–500g baby leaf spinach
• 375–500g pre-rolled
puff pastry
• Grated zest of one lemon
• 1 tbsp finely chopped tarragon (optional)
• One egg, lightly beaten
• Sea salt and black pepper

Method:

Make hollandaise (recipe in our book!) and leave to cool by putting the bowl of sauce into a larger bowl of iced water. Put the salmon in a large pan and add cold water just to cover. Bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer for two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave for a further five minutes. Strain off the liquid and leave the salmon to cool then flake the flesh, keeping the pieces as large as possible. Wash the spinach, then without draining it too thoroughly, put it in a pan. Place the pan over a medium heat and push the spinach down with a wooden spoon. When it has completely collapsed leave to cool, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Unroll the puff pastry. Arrange half of the salmon over the bottom half of it, leaving a 2cm border along the bottom. Season with salt and pepper, and top with half the spinach. Stir the lemon zest and tarragon (if using), into the hollandaise, then spread half of the sauce over the spinach. Repeat these layers with the remaining salmon, spinach and hollandaise. Brush the border and exposed pastry with beaten egg. Fold the pastry over and roll the edges to seal. Brush the pie with egg and cut a few slits along the top. Bake for 35–45 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up and is a rich golden-brown and the filling is piping hot.

Tickets now on sale for An Evening with The Hairy Bikers – www.gigsandtours.com
The Hairy Bikers British Classics is published by Seven Dials

Talking Point: Julia Donaldson

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Multi award-winning author Julia Donaldson tells us about seeing her work adapted for the stage as Zog goes on tour across the UK this month.

Q. You’ve written almost 200 books – where do you get your ideas?

“It varies, but I always develop the storyline fully in my head before I start writing. I think you read some books and you can tell that people have just made it up as they go along – but I always think, you wouldn’t start telling a joke if you didn’t know what the punchline was.”

 

Q. Are you excited to see Zog adapted for the stage?

“I’m tremendously excited that Zog will be taking flight around the UK in this first ever stage production. Going to the theatre can be a truly magical experience, I know it will be such a thrill to see the world of Zog being brought to life on stage.”

 

Q. Where did the idea for Zog the dragon come from?

“My editor said to me ‘it would be lovely to have a story about a dragon’, so I started thinking about it and the name ‘Madam Dragon’ came into my head, which I thought had a nice sound. The story came to me bit by bit. My husband Malcolm, who is a doctor, also had some input here. Because when I was planning the story, I knew Zog would keep meeting the Princess, and originally I was going to have them play together and toast marshmallows. And Malcolm said that’s a bit soppy, couldn’t it be something with a bit more oomph? And then I came up with the doctor angle.”

 

Q. Animals feature very strongly in many of your books – why is that?

“It’s often used as a convention – like in Aesop’s Fables, where the animals aren’t really animals, they represent a quality or a characteristic. I also think it would be far more boring for the reader or listener, if Mouse in The Gruffalo was just a small but clever person, or The Gruffalo itself was a big, scary but rather stupid person. Or in The Snail and the Whale, if the Whale was just a big person and the snail a little person – I think you need animals to represent the qualities.

 

Q. Your books always have a happy ending, which is very comforting, do you think it’s important to give that to your readers?

“I often think about the role of storytelling for young people. In life, not everything does have a happy ending – but I think storytelling is probably very important because to grow up with stories helps you have aspirations, even if life doesn’t turn out like that. Even as grown-ups, we know that there is a lot of sadness in life, but I think if we didn’t have those stories, aspirations and a sense of what’s ideal, life would be much harder to live.”

 

Q. As you’re writing, you must visualise characters in your head. What’s it like when an illustrator then comes up with something different?

“I always say it’s like going on holiday – you’ve got an idea in your head of how it’s going to be, and then it’s always totally different. But once you’re there and enjoying it, you just forget what was in your head before. It doesn’t influence the storyline, but it will influence how I picture the characters – so I’m usually not surprised when I see Axel’s interpretation.”

 

Q. What do you feel a visit to the theatre gives young children?

“Well I remember going to see The Nutcracker when I was a child and I found the whole thing completely magical. I can still remember how I felt when the curtain went up. I suppose in a way it’s the same thing that a book gives you, in that while you’re reading or watching, you believe in a different reality. And if it’s a good show, parents love to see that their children – even very young ones – can just be transfixed by it.”

 

Q. Your books are read around the world, and have been adapted many times, what do you think is the appeal?

“I don’t know for sure, but I think there are three main things: the storyline – it’s really important to have a well-crafted story; the language; and the illustration – and I do have to give a lot of credit to the illustrators. I think it’s a combination of those three things done well.”

 

Zog plays at various venues including Wycombe Swan, Guildford’s G Live and Oxford Playhouse between now and summer.

Photo credit: Zoglive.com

  For information and tickets visit ZogLive.com.

Great Daffodil Appeal

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Do you bit for the Great Daffodil Appeal and help Marie Curie this March.

If spring makes you think of daffodils then how about joining the Great Daffodil Appeal collection in March in aid of Marie Curie. 

The charity which offers care and support through terminal illness is asking people to help out either through fundraising or joining in the collection effort. 

One of the UK’s most recognisable charity appeals, through the bright yellow daffodil pins, they are asking if you can spare just two hours of your time to help make a big difference. 

Marie Curie can offer a wide range of help and advice on how to go about collecting and making the most of the experience. 

If you prefer to help out in other ways, then how about challenging yourself to walk 10,000 steps every day in March and get your family and friends to donate as you ‘Step into Spring’. It’s a great way to feel good, improve your own fitness and do something amazing for those with a terminal illness. 

Did you know if you walk 10,000 steps every day during March you’ll have covered 150 miles that’s the equivalent of walking from the Brighton Pavilion to the Bull Ring in Birmingham? 

The origins of the charity began in 1948 when the Marie Curie International Memorial was established, it went on to become the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation which then launched an appeal, bringing in £4,000 and Marie Curie’s daughter gave permission for her mother’s name to be used. 

The charity started its work in earnest in the 1950s with residential homes being opened, help given to patients at home and medical research. 

It has continued to grow over the following decades and it now provides care and support for more than 50,000 terminally ill people and their families through its 2,100 nurses. 

  Click here to find out more about how you could help and join In the Great Daffodil Appeal.

Talking Point: Nigel Havers

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Liz Nicholls chats to actor, dad, and all-round charming man Nigel Havers, 67, who is set to star in ART at Richmond Theatre.

February is here which brings Valentine’s Day! Do you celebrate?

“In a word: no! My wife is not interested in Valentine’s Day, thank God. We don’t bother at all. If that sounds unromantic, perhaps it would be to say that I think every day should be Valentine’s Day!”

Q. What do you enjoy most about ART?

“ART is my favourite play which is why I’ve done it so many times. It’s beautifully written by Yasmina [Reza] and one of the best comedies ever… Thirdly, it’s a joy to take part in because, being such a short play, you’re in the pub before 9pm!”

Q. You always have a lot on; how do you relax when you’re not working? Do you watch soaps?

“I don’t watch any soaps, no. It being panto season, I haven’t not worked for quite a while – I’ve forgotten how I relax! I tend to keep busy, but if I’m not lying down, I’m walking.”

Q. Does your dog accompany you much?

“Yes; she’s a black poodle who’s cut like a mongrel so people are always surprised when I tell them her breed. She’s called Charlie and a real character. I live between Wiltshire and London and we often take her to the pub with us. The Bell at Ramsbury is a lovely dog-friendly pub near us. In London there are several; we like Colbert in Sloane Square and a restaurant called Lucio’s in Fulham Road. I don’t know why more places don’t allow well-behaved dogs.”

Q. What’s the greatest lesson fatherhood has taught you?

“Agree with your daughter! Give them anything they want! Because they’ll win in the end so that little nugget will at least save you time.”

Q. Is there anywhere in the world you’d like to visit?

“I haven’t been to Vietnam and I’d like to explore that part of the world.”

Q. You’re godfather to Jack Whitehall, too. Do you see a hidden side to him?

“He’s a very bad influence on me! No; he’s a sweetheart; a really lovely man. There’s nothing secret about him because he lays it all bare in his acts. He’s very honest about his life. When he first started as a comedian, he performed at a pub in Putney and invited me to come along to watch and advise. My advice to him at the end of it was: look – don’t try to be a comedian! Well, that didn’t work and I’m glad he didn’t take it!”

  Nigel Havers, Denis Lawson and Stephen Tompkinson star in ART on tour this month. Visit www.arttheplay.com for more information.

LONDON

See it at Richmond Theatre, 4th to 9th March.

For tickets, click here or call 0844 871 7651 (normal charge plus 7p per minute).

SURREY

See it at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, 18th to 23th February.

For tickets, click here or call 01483 440000

THAMES VALLEY

See it at Oxford Playhouse, 4th to 9th February.

For tickets, click here or call 01865 305305

 

Rock solid: megaliths

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Andy Burnham offers his guide to some of the best megalithic sites here in South East England which you can visit.

While you may associate stone circles, henges and other megalithic sites with Wiltshire, Cornwall or Scotland, a few have survived here in south-east England. The stone monuments date back to the late Neolithic era, around 4,500 years ago and the earthen round barrows are about 1,000 years younger, from the Bronze Age.

● The Devil’s Quoits – stone circle & henge

Nearest village: Stanton Harcourt | Map: SP 4112 0476 | Lat: 51.74004N | Long: 1.40588W
fascinating monument and a triumph of the art of reconstruction, this site was extensively damaged by gravel extraction and the construction of an airfield during World War II, when the original bank of the henge was levelled to make way the runway. By 1940, only one stone remained, with others buried near their former positions while the airfield was in use. Careful excavation in the later part of the 20th century provided a complete plan of this 79m (259ft) circle, with its original stone-holes. The henge is huge, with a ditch diameter of 120m (394ft) and entrances at each side. Between 2002 and 2008 the standing stones were re-erected, along with many newly quarried ones, and the great banks and ditches were restored. Once again 36 gravel conglomerate stones now stand fresh-looking and their deep red colour catches the winter sun beautifully.
Find it: Just outside Stanton Harcourt village, follow the signs to the recycling centre. Continue until you get to a small parking area on your left opposite a lorry weighbridge, where you can check in and ask for directions to the stones, a pleasant walk of a few hundred metres.

● Micheldever Wood – round barrows

Nearest village: Micheldever | Map: SU 5277 3721
There’s an archaeological trail through the woods that takes in a number of barrows
and an Iron Age “banjo” enclosure. The bowl barrow is damaged on its northern side by quarrying for flints or clay, but is still 25m (82ft) across and 2m (6½ft) high. The woods are stunning in spring when the bluebells are out.

● Setley Plain – round barrows

Nearest village: Brockenhurst
Map: SU 2962 0002
On Setley Plain in the New Forest are three impressive disc barrows, all of them damaged by antiquarian investigation in the 18th century. The ditch and outer bank of the north-western barrow are interrupted by the bank of one of the others so they overlap, which is unusual.

● Cissbury Ring – Hill Fort & Flint Mines

Nearest village: Findon
Map: TQ 1391 0803
Dating from around 250BC, Cissbury Ring is the largest Iron Age hill fort in Sussex and the second largest in England, covering some 24 hectares (60 acres). Partially enclosed within its ramparts are much older (Neolithic) flint mines. When the mine shafts were excavated in the 1870s, three of the 13 investigated were found to contain rock art and carved chalk blocks. Further prehistoric art was found in another shaft excavated in the 1950s, suggesting once again that there was more going on here than the simple extraction of chalk. The site’s name probably comes from 16th-century attempts to associate the fort with the Saxon chief Cissa.

● The Hoar Stone – chambered tomb

Nearest village: Enstone | Map: SP 3779 2375 | Lat: 51.911N | Long: 1.45204W
Discreetly sited in a copse beside the road, this is a very ruinous but impressively atmospheric tomb. Green with moss, only three stones remain, one nearly 2.7m (9ft) tall, the others 1.5m and 0.9m (5ft and 3ft). In 1925 there were six stones and a mound, but there’s no sign of the mound or the three missing stones now. At Midsummer’s Eve, it is said, the largest stone goes down to the village to drink, or alternatively to the brook at Woodford. Another story depicts the stones as an old man, his horse and his dog, all turned to stone. Still another has it that a ghost has been seen walking from the tomb north toward the village.

● Lambourn Seven Barrows

Map: SU 3289 8288 | Lat: 51.54198N | Long: 1.52901W
Some 42 barrows have been identified in the Lambourn valley, with a group of ten (the “Seven” Barrows) running in two parallel rows near the road, clearly visible. They are mostly bowls, but there are some disc and saucer barrows, and a long barrow. Some were found to hold intact burials, some cremations. Grave goods included various flint arrows and a small, polished, rectangular jet pendant, with a hole that was smoothed, showing it had been worn.

● The Rollright Stones – megalithic complex

Nearest village: Long Compton | Map: SP 2958 3087 | Lat: 51.97555N | Long: 1.57080W
The three Rollright sites are linked in folklore through the famous tale, first mentioned in brief in William Camden’s Britannia (1586), of the would-be king of England who was turned to stone by a witch, along with his knights and foot soldiers, when seven strides failed to reveal to him the village in the valley below. In 2015, the media seized on the discovery of a female skeleton, buried below an Anglo-Saxon ritual spoon (patera), as proof of the existence of Long Compton’s witch – although “Rita” (as she was dubbed) actually lived some three millennia after the raising of the circle. The Rollright Stones still have a strong draw for modern Pagans and ceremonies are regularly held here. The King’s Men are interestingly weathered, oolitic limestone stones positioned in a 33m (108ft) ring, smoother sides facing inward. Comparisons of antiquarian drawings and lichen analysis reveal many of the stones have been moved and re-erected over the centuries. It is thought they originally formed an almost continuous wall of some 80 uprights, built around 2500BC. The stones are thought to be of local origin. There were tales of the King’s Men returning to life, linking hands and dancing at midnight, and they were also said to go down to a well at Little Rollright to drink – as did the petrified king himself at the sound of the church clock striking 12. Perhaps 1,000 years separate the building of the circle from the raising of the King Stone, now found across the road (SP 2962 3095). This 2.5m (8ft) standing stone may have been a marker for a Bronze Age cemetery. The stone’s odd shape was caused by the historic practice of chipping off pieces as good-luck charms and amulets against the Devil. It was protected (along with the other Rollright sites) by the first Schedule of Ancient Monuments in 1882. The King Stone was known in local legend as the meeting place of Long Compton’s witches, and was also said to mark one of the entrances to the fairy halls under the circle.

The Whispering Knights (SP 2993 3084), 357m (1,171ft) east of the stone circle, predate the King’s Men by 1,000–1,500 years. Legend tells how the knights were turned to stone as they plotted against the king. It is said that women used to question the Knights, pressing an ear against a stone to receive their oracular wisdom.

I hope this has been an interesting introduction to a few sites…

You can find many more on our Megalithic Portal at www.megalithic.co.uk – look for the ‘Find a Site’ menu to get close to prehistory on your doorstep.

Andy Burnham is the author & editor of The Old Stones: A Field Guide to the Megalithic Sites of Britain and Ireland, published by Watkins and out now.

Pictured: Pentre Ifan by Robin Potticary