Last supper

Round & About


Hanna Pulidori explores the bustling life of Pompeii people, frozen in time, thanks to the latest exhibition at The Ashmolean

Picture this – it’s late summer in the bay of Naples, the city is just waking up. On one side of the mosaic-lined streets are acres of orchards, on the other, the sun-dappled ocean shines. The smell of salt lingers as you settle down to dinner. How does a salad of cheese, fig and balsamic vinegar sound? Focaccia with prosciutto and poached eggs are on the menu, with great wine.

Some residents of Pompeii, AD 79, were living this timeless fantasy the day disaster struck. Last Supper In Pompeii is a humanising account of the society that once thrived in this mysterious city, explored through the culinary artefacts excavated in the south Italian culinary haven. Like us, the Romans partook in savoury escapism, evidence of which has been found in excavations of the town and neighbouring Herculaneum.

Among the items on display at the Ashmolean are utensils, arts, and edible goods that furnish our foodie fantasies, painting a picture of daily life before the eruption of Vesuvius. Thousand-year-old pomegranates and fossilised olives indicate that the sought-after Mediterranean diet has been in vogue far longer than dieticians would have you believe. The ancients did not, however, believe in calorie-counting as we do today. Presented from the homes of wealthy Pompeiians are frescos of mouth-watering afterlives saturated with great feasts and banquets. The exhibition makes it clear how interwoven the celebration of food was with ancient life and death. There are plenty of Etruscan tomb offerings to peruse; terracotta relics moulded in the form of treats and fancies the Lares (household gods) enjoyed most.

Explored also are the less-than-luxurious quarters, showing the complex organisation of the historical food chain. Housemasters took their meals in triclinia, expensive dining rooms influenced by Greek splendour, and rarely visited the kitchens their slaves occupied; these were small, often with latrines in the middle. Although both spaces existed in the same homes, they were worlds apart from each other. This exhibition provides the opportunity to witness an archaic life that bears a striking resemblance to the modern world. Dr Paul Roberts, Head of the Department of Antiquities, says: “Our fascination with the doomed people of Pompeii and their everyday lives has never waned. What better connection can we make with them as ordinary people than through their food and drink?”

Learn more

You can explore the relationship between our food-crazy society and the ancient gourmet of the Romans between now and January. For more information…

C’est la Vee

Round & About


Calm, cool, classy and award-winning comedian Sindhu Vee comes to Oxford’s North Wall Arts Centre this month with her latest show Sandhog.

It is said we chose our friends, but we are given our relatives, the exception being our spouse. Those ties are highly questionable at so many points once the bloom of new love is gone (sometime between 24 hours and 24 months after the wedding!).

Yet people stay married, and she is the generation fighting on two fronts being responsible for both children and aged parents! Stand by for some home truths on marriage, and the exhausting and complicated life of giving all generations the love you think they deserve. Peter Anderson caught up with Sindhu to find out about her, stand-up and her love for Oxford as she looks forward to an appearance at the North Wall Arts Centre.

Stand-up was not on Sindhu’s radar for a career choice, she worked in investment banking, had three children, a Danish husband, and a giant Labrador. Then it happened, as Sindhu explains “It hadn’t really entered my head. I have never seen stand up and then a friend persuaded me to go and listen to them at an “open-mike” night. I thought to myself, I think I could do that and so I did a course on stand-up comedy, and the rest is history.”

It seems though when it comes to inspirations there was a seed that was sown in her childhood in India “Looking back, when I younger and still living India in the 1970s, I was fixated on Carol Burnett, I loved the way she could be so silly. I checked recently with my mum and said Oh yes you were always watching that stupid lady”.

With her experience studying does Sindhu have a structured approach to writing her act. “There is certainly a structure in that when I get an idea, I will practice it at around five “open-mike” nights continually refining it. I don’t think I could allocate a time and certainly couldn’t work at a table in a café – I would just sit and eat cakes all the time!”
Sindhu is pleased to be appearing at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford was the first place in England she lived after she got a scholarship in India to study here. “Oxford has always been dear to my heart, since I first came to England and Oxford to study philosophy in 1992. I always felt it was the wider Oxford that welcomed me as well as my college and the university”

Sindhu Vee

Sandhog is at the North Wall Arts Centre on 19th September for tickets and more information…

Reading Film Theatre

Round & About


Celebrate Reading Film Theatre’s 50th anniversary & design a new logo

Reading Film Theatre is celebrating its 50th year and wants your help to design a new logo to mark the occasion. 

Reading’s only independent cinema shows a range of art-house, foreign language and indie films as well as the occasional mainstream blockbuster. 

Having started as a joint project between the British Film Institute and the University of Reading, the registered charity runs with the help of 50 volunteers and in the words of its president, Sir Kenneth Branagh: “Independent cinema is vital to the cultural life of town and I am pleased to be President of the cinema which provides opportunities for people to see films that otherwise would not be shown in Reading.” 

Films are shown on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the Palmer Building at the University of Reading where film goers can enjoy screenings with state-of-the-art equipment. 

The new season starts this month with films to amaze, amuse and delight. 

And there’s the chance for you to win a year’s Classic membership to the theatre in the competition to design a new logo ahead of next year’s anniversary. 

The design requirements: 

Hard copy A5 size or no smaller than 50mm x 50mm and 300dpi if digital 

Make clear the RFT is celebrating its 50th year 

Able to be combined with the film theatre’s existing logo to be placed next to it 

All entries should be original, unpublished and directly created for the competition 

The RFT will retain the right to use or adapt all designs submitted in any format 


Entries should be sent to Reading Film Theatre, Logo Design Competition, PO Box 217, Palmer Building, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AH or by email to [email protected] with 50th Anniversary Logo in the subject line. 

All entries should provide full contact details. By entering you agree to RFT contacting you about your entry and forthcoming events. 

Reading Film Theatre

For more details about the club and of the programme of films to be shown

Blenheim Palace Shakespeare

Round & About


Enjoy a Bard classic at Blenheim Palace pop-up theatre

The sumptuous surroundings of Blenheim Palace are playing host to Europe’s first-ever pop-up Shakespearean theatre over the summer. 

Four of The Bard’s most well-known plays will be performed in the 13-sided traditional Elizabethan Rose Theatre which features three tiers of covered seating for 560 and an open courtyard for 340 standing ‘groundlings’. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Richard III and Romeo and Juliet transport allow audiences to an intimate atmosphere full of breath taking, spine-tingling and heart-stopping moments courtesy of two companies of actors over a nine-week season which runs until 7th September. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s funniest comedies. Four friends, all in love with the wrong person, set out into the woods and come across the fairy king and queen arguing. When the king, Oberon, decides to fix things using the juice of a magic flower, things start to go very wrong for everyone. 

In contrast, Macbeth mixes blood, tension, witches, ghosts and a kingdom in crisis in the tale of a toxic marriage, crushing ambition and murder. 

Richard III tells of a villain who murders his way to the crown. He woos the woman whose husband and father-in-law he has killed, has his two young nephews murdered in the Tower of London and is finally crowned Richard III, but along the way he makes some serious enemies. 

Warring families is also very much the theme of the most famous love story ever told – Romeo and Juliet. The son and daughter of two respective feuding noble families fall in love but know their love is forbidden and must marry in secret with fatal consequences. 

Pop-up theatre

The performances are daily at 2pm and 7.30pm. For details of which play is being performed when and to book tickets, visit

Open water swimmer

Round & About


Lizzie Cox explains how she discovered the joy of outdoor swimming thanks to a trip to Berinsfield Lake…

The water calls to me, as she laps at the shore. Her soft trickling against the rocks and pebbles, that she has placed at her farthest edge, to give those who venture near, a foothold with a sharp- edged warning.

My feet are baby soft and too cosseted and vulnerable, as they crunch on the powdery sand nudging towards the sparkling waters edge.

The springtime sun is high in the sky but the wind is chilly and biting. I peep into the glittering mirrored shallows, excitedly scanning the lake bed, for nature holds secrets as ancient as the earth and as deep as the lakes reedy beds.

The birds and small creatures that amble on her banks and laze in pools of still sunlight on her dappled surface, feel familiar and safe and as I near the waters edge the sounds of the shore recede, the laughter of the playing children, the excitedly barking dogs and the bustling swimmers as they adjust their sports attire and stretch those toned torsos. The sounds fade into the distance as I stare mesmerised by the watery depths.

As I peer beneath the surface the minnows dart around in innocence and joy as I dip my toe into the ripples of the shore line and the warmth of my human frame meets the icy cold of the lake and our energy connects. I feel her age old body of water as it welcomes me into her vast pool, or at least she humours me as I wade in the shallows, but as I lift my gaze to the horizon where the tree line meets the water a chill enters my heart as I recall the reason for my visit to the lakeside this early  morning and the knowledge of how far into her depths I must swim to reach what I seek

I glance back at the swimmers now entering the water yards away, a babble of jolly women are wading knee deep into the wet, their swimsuits and swimming caps thin protection against the waters icy currents one of these women tucking her loose grey hair into her cap smiles at me and for a moment I want to ask her if she seeks what I seek and her deep belly laugh as she natters to her companion is a sign to me that this is a kindly soul – I open my mouth to call to her but too late I open my mouth to speak and she is already gone into the fresh cold waters of the lake and soon she is bobbing her head in the deeper water, front crawling her way to the first yellow bouy and I my first words of friendship are lost on the wind and carried away in the breeze across the treetops and beyond.

I do not wait for the other swimmers,but make my own solitary way into the icy waters as the reeds. Cling to my thighs I take a deep breath, and then I’m under, immediately a survival instinct kicks in, the waters cold and you must move to keep warm, and anyway one does not enter the water to simply paddle on a day like today one enter the waters to swim.

I can only use breast stroke or at least I feel it is fitting that I do and have never resolved to learn front crawl and so I make my way like an elegant legged toad or frog through the wake of the triathlon swimmers that power their way to fitness and beaming good health, I catch a slip stream from them and hitch a ride as it carries me further out, further to the far edge of the lake. As they stream past the swimmers disturb a cloud of mating dragonflies who flit like sparks of flurosecent blue around the surface of the water and then settle when the energy of them has passed onto the now settling waves.

As I glide through the water I sense I am getting further and further away from shore and I am solitary once more. I sense I need to cough and as I do so a little water entered my nostrils and I snort starting to panic, I was an asthmatic child and memories of cross country in Windsor great park and the lack of oxygen in my tight lungs and temper tantrums where I sobbed and gasped for breath as I bit down in anger on words I could not utter. As an adult I  suffer from panic attacks and over my41 years have been partial to the odd fag or two. As these memories came and went like passing shadows across the water I remembered my teenage years where as a young girl I dived through the pools of green jade in the south of France as lithe and as an egret and yet now here I am on a cold bright April morning in the Oxfordshire countryside in a cold lake and my 41 year old body creaking and groaning like a old rusty barge.

And yet something takes over the lake starts  to silence my struggling and her quiet teaches me more than the clammering noisy lessons of this world ever could.

My breathing becomes more regular as I tred  water I look down and see suddenly out the corner of my eye a silver flash I glance around at the other swimmers but I am not alone a kayaker floats past her eyes crinkled with a concerned smile but this annoys rather than soothes it is not the kindness of humans I seek but the cold hard wisdom of the lake and what hides in the water at her far edge.

What I have seen before and haunts my dreams and has called me back from my lap dogs and newspapers and coffee this morning to her shores then my attention falls again to the water that seems to pulse around me lapping at my hair as it escapes from my swimming hat and swirls in the water like tentacles. There it is again that swoosh and a clap And I see a silvery scaled f tail descend as a startled fish jumps out the water and lands again darting away further into the deep.

I let out a frustrated chuckle a fish ! Only a fish – but the realisation that I may have been deceived in my quest makes my heart heavy and as I turn wearily  from the far corner of the lake and start the long swim back to shore my shoulders begin to dip and I feel sleepy in the water as if falling into a deep trance my head starts to dip below the water line and for a second I slip under water my eyes are open and I see coming through the reed beds a woman or a fish I am not sure my vision is blurred the water has become suddenly murky and a cold current hits me in the torso but she or it is approaching fast and there is nowhere to go and suddenly she’s upon me her scales are indeed silvery and her webbed hands as she touches me face and whispers in my ear I can hear nothing but I know in my heart she is singing the sound of falling tears.

In that moment I think I tell my dreams my nightmares my fears and failures she looks straight on my eyes her hair swirling like seaweed and her face rosy and round not the face of a monster but a mirror image of my own I gasp and as water rushes into my mouth it startled me and I rise the the surface gasping in pure air as I break the waves I look above me and alone seagull flying high in the skies above cries out and again I am born of the lake.

I make my way towards the shore and do not look behind me as I climb the beach my legs like jelly my nose dripping just simply make my way back to my patient husband sitting waiting on the warm car to take me home.

Many drown in the wild of the water in the truth that is the secret of the lake

That you are what you seek and what you seek was in you all along.

That the wild calls you to discover this and the wild is indeed what you are.

Many take this knowledge to its watery grave many do not venture near again to the mystical depths of her sparkling waters.

But to hear the cry of the birds as they skim across her  surface and see the dragonflies dance

And hear the sound of the sirens and the nymphs as they sing their haunting song calling you to come and meet again the secret of the lake.

More info

To find out more about Queenford Lakes Open Water Swimming, OX10 7PQ, see their Facebook page below or contact 07974 369982

Normandy 75

Karen Neville


A new exhibition marking the 75th anniversary of the Normandy campaign telling the courageous stories of soldiers who fought there and during D-Day, opens today.

Normandy 75: Oxfordshire to the Orne will go on display at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum until 3rd November and will combine a travelling exhibition from the National Army Museum with stories staff at the museum have gathered from around Oxfordshire.

The stories will be told through objects, a map of key locations, quotes from Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire born soldiers who served on D-Day and beyond.

Soldiers from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry were among the first to set foot in Normandy on 6th June 1944 and were instrumental in the capture of Pegasus Bridge in the early hours, before the beach landings.

Visitors can sit inside a life-size reproduction of a Horsa Gilder’s compartment and listen to recorded interviews with D-Day veterans.

The museum’s collections manager Peggy Ainsworth said: “In addition to our own regimental stories, we wanted to use this exhibition as a way to represent the local soldiers who contributed to the Normandy campaign.

“There have been many fascinating stories coming in from the public, which we will be telling through artefacts from our collection and information gained thorough our Stories of Conflict and County campaign launched last year.”

The exhibition of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in the grounds of the Oxfordshire Museum, Park Street, Woodstock, will end with a special collecting day on 2nd November. The We’ll Meet Again collections day will encourage the public to bring objects to the museum and tell their stories of Oxfordshire from the Second World War to the 1970s. Items donated or loaned will be used to form the Second World War and Reminiscence displays.


The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum is open from Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 11am-5pm and Sunday 2pm-5pm.

For more information

Mum on stage

Round & About


Peter Anderson chats with Jodie Nolan, the local mum who is starring in the hyper-successful musical Mamma Mia in the West End this summer

A sunny, funny tale of a mother, daughter and three possible dads set on an idyllic Greek island, has been celebrating the music of Abba and entertaining audiences the world over since 1999. Now a mum who took time out of her West End career has joined the ensemble cast once more. For about a decade Jodie Nolan has been enjoying married life in Chipping Norton, teaching dance and musical theatre, after herself starting to learn ballet at the age of two and a half at a dance school in Byfleet.

Who are her inspirations? “Both my parents, but especially my mother. I was brought up with the philosophy if you really want something go for it, and they were very supportive. Growing up, it was Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz and ballet wise Mikhail Baryshnikov in White Knight.

How did you get your first break in the West End? “I did not go straight into a musicals after leaving the Laine Academy in Guildford, I spent time working as part of the entertainment team on one of the Royal Caribbean Cruise ships, very quickly I had to get my head around all types of shows, and I was away from home. Then, I performed in a couple of tours of Chicago, and then the international tour of Mamma Mia. When I saw that there were vacancies in the West End show and so I gave it a shot and managed to get into the cast in 2008.

Was it hard ten years ago to decide to have a break from the West End? “At the time no, it had been a challenging time for me, I had got married to a lovely husband, but I lost my mother and decided it was time to take a step back for a while. Alongside having children – we now have two lovely daughters and live in idyllic Chipping Norton. I also trained as a teacher in ballet and musical theatre and opened the Nolan Academy. I just felt the time was right now for another shot at the West End and was pleased to get back into Mamma Mia – and supervise the teachers who are covering me in the academy.

Jodie is back on stage in Mamma Mia, but are there any other musicals on her wish list? “What a question! As I walk along The Strand to get to the theatre you see so many musicals that are on. But who wouldn’t want to appear in Les Miserables?”

Want to go?

See Jodie in Mamma Mia in the Novello Theatre in London’s West End – buy your tickets

Vinyl Revival

Round & About


Watch The Vinyl Revival at Oxford’s Phoenix Playhouse

Billed as “a film about why the tables are turning again”, The Vinyl Revival is a 43-minute documentary exploring the renaissance of all things vinyl.

Released as part of Record Store Day 2019, it is now enjoying a limited cinema and festival run and you can catch it at the Phoenix Picturehouse in Walton Street, Oxford on Wednesday, 24th July.

In The Vinyl Revival you can hear from new passionate record shop owners as well as the established die-hards going strong and thriving.

The documentary also features musicians and music industry pundits, experts on culture and music history. The film discusses the importance of the record shop and vinyl as a whole. It addresses the why’s of vinyl’s revival, the human need for belonging, the love of history, and the stories of how the humble little record shop has shaped so many lives.

It follows on from the acclaimed Last Shop Standing and is again directed and produced by Pip Piper.

Contributors include Philip Selway (Radiohead), Jen Otter Bikerdike (Rock and Roll Historian), Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) and Ade Utley (Portishead).

After the documentary there will be a Q&A with Pip and Philip Selway of Oxford-band Radiohead. The event starts at 8.30pm.

True lovers of vinyl will be interested in the album, The Vinyl Revival, a gatefold compilation album released for Record Store Day 2019 and the book, The Vinyl Revival and the Shops that Made it Happen by Graham Jones, which inspired the film. Jones is famous for being the man who has visited more record shops than anyone ever.

Nick Mason, of Pink Floyd summed up vinyl saying:
“The vinyl record is the equivalent of whether you have the tea bag or the Japanese tea ceremony, the tea ceremony is the right way to approach music”.

To book tickets and for more information


Reading Fringe

Karen Neville


Reading Fringe Festival is under way and over the next nine days you can enjoy comedy, drama, art, music, theatre, walks and much much more.

“The most eclectic line-up of events yet” is set to take Reading by storm as the Reading Fringe Festival hits town with more than 80 shows to choose from.

As well as surprising shows, they’ll be popping up at some surprising venues too with an orchestra at Reading station and yoga at the Abbey Ruins among others.

Reading Fringe features a host of local, national and international performers for 10 days of comedy, music, film, family fun theatre, art, walks and much more from 19th to 28th July.

This year’s festival has the theme of Into the Woods and Beyond and one of its stars will be the flagship venue of Reading Minster which will host everything from Irish dancing to ‘bring your own baby’ comedy afternoons for new parents.

A conversation with some of Reading’s refugees, a commission with artists from Norway and an evening of songs from musicals are among some of the other treats for visitors.

We truly believe there is something for everyone

There’s live music and family fun at the Oracle Riverside and the Vue Cinema will hold the film festival for the first time.

Cabaret, comedy and drama are on offer at the pentahotel, the Purple Turtle, After Dark, the Three Guineas, South Street and the Rising Sun. Music comes in genres to suit every taste including jazz, rap, steampunk, folk, soul, classic and a capella.

There’s plenty of entertainment too for younger Fringe goers who won’t want to miss out on the singing snails at the very least!
Festival director Zsuzsi Lindsay said they are “beyond excited” with the programme for this year’s festival. She added: “We truly believe there is something for everyone – whether you are a comedy fan, an art aficionado, a film fanatic, looking to keep the kids entertained  during the holidays or none or all of the above!”

Find out more

Visit the Reading Fringe Festival website for full details of the programme

Prophet Sharing

Round & About


Two great religions. Two great comedians. The descendants of Abraham may have gone their separate ways, but now stand-up comedian friends Ashley Blaker and Imran Yusuf are joining forces in the most-unlikely double-act since Kermit and Miss Piggy, the pair are travelling the UK uniting people of every faith and none for an evening of laughter and come to South Street Arts Centre this week. Peter Anderson caught up with the pair to chat about the show and their love of comedy.

With the current divisive nature of politics, it is nice to see comedy trying to bring unity, where did the idea for the show come from? Ashley replies “: I had thought for a while about doing something like this and then Imran came to see my Edinburgh show and really enjoyed it so I thought it would be worth asking him”. Imran agrees;” The show was Ashley’s idea I went to see him in Edinburgh last year and afterwards we got talking and he pitched this format.”

Speaking of the format, what can audiences look forward to? “Authentic experiences of two people from religious backgrounds who actually know what they are talking about.” Imran explains, whilst Ashley entices us “We perform separately and then do half an hour together. Thereafter I don’t want to give too much away.” He smiles.

Would there be the possibility of a sequel, together or perhaps with comedians of other faiths following your splendid lead? Imran replies “I hope this inspires other comics to explore something similar. Ashley and I are both quite well read into our faiths with some hardcore experiences, I hope to see more of something like this rather than the pedestrian narratives that are well worn out now.

I’m already working on another solo show and have vowed to read every major religious book over the next few years to help understand the multiple world views we are all so devoted to.” While it seems, Ashley has a partner lined up for 2020! “I have asked Tom Cruise if he’d like to do a show with me – orthodox Jew and Scientologist. Not sure how funny he is but I thought he would probably shift a lot of seats.”

You are coming to Reading, is this somewhere you have happy memories of? Ashley replies “Yes I’ve performed my last two solo shows in Reading, so I am very much looking forward to coming back.” Imran has also performed here “Yes, I’ve performed in Reading a few times before. At the Uni and for two previous solo shows”.

For your chance to see them together, they are at South Street Arts Centre on 4th June.

  For information go to Reading Arts.