Puppy love

Round & About

festival

Top Dog Film Festival, coming to Abingdon this month, stars man’s best friend

Who doesn’t love a dog? Whether scruffy or pampered, they really are man’s best friend. So celebrate them in style this month!

Touring the UK for the first time, the Top Dog Film Festival features heart-warming stories of man’s best friend – via the big screen. Using stunning cinematography and heart-warming storytelling, the festival features tales from all around the world.

The collection of canine-inspired short films is touring the UK and comes to Abingdon’s Amey Theatre on Tuesday, 12th November. Tour director Neil Teasdale says: “Humans and dogs share a precious, heart-warming bond, and this new collection of films celebrates the canine companions that enrich our lives.

“Whether you’re a dog owner or just like dogs, these films are guaranteed to make you laugh, cry and fall in love with man’s best friend all over again.”
Highlights include the story of Arthur. A team competing in a gruelling adventure race in Ecuador unexpectedly had a surprise addition to their team.

The athletes encountered a then un-named stray dog, severely injured with a wound on its back – he joined them on their journey and found a home.

Another tale, The Dogist, features Elias Weiss Friedman, who lost his corporate job and took to the streets of New York with his camera and a squeaky tennis ball. Since then he has photographed 30,000 dogs all around the world, racking up 3.2 million followers on Instagram.

The event will also include a free prize giveaway, and a festive, dog-loving atmosphere is guaranteed!

🐕

For more information and tickets, visit

Didcot Food Festival

Round & About

festival

Enjoy great food & drink, fantastic cookery demos and magic at this year’s Didcot Food Festival on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October.

Didcot Food Festival, now in its fourth year, has proved so popular that this year the event will cover two days. Held in the Didcot Civic Hall, which offers indoor space for over 50 artisan traders, the Kid’s Kooking Zone, Chef’s Theatre and Vintage Tea Room.

The show opens at 10.30 am on the 26th by the time-travelling magical duo Morgan and West who will combine an act of magic and a love of food. Rhys Morgan says: “Our opening at this year’s Didcot Food Festival will be ‘bafflemint’ mixed with a hint of amazement and a generous dollop of laughter. We can’t give away too much; a good magic trick is like a good joke and ruined if you let the punchline out of the bag too early. So, to enjoy our opening act, you will just have to ensure you are part of the crowd and see what it is all about.”

Other Oxfordshire chefs lined up to amaze the audience with their culinary skills are old favourite Nick Bennett who reached the final of MasterChef The Professionals in 2015. Nick has a way of creating fine dining dishes look so simple, but we all know it takes a lot of technical skill to produce the type of food for which Nick is known for. Other chefs include Joe McCarthy from the award-winning Wychwood Inn at Shipton-under-Wychwood. Joe takes simple ingredients and turns them into memorable and very tasty dishes. John Van Nielerk from the newly opened Hilton Garden Inn in Abingdon which will be showcasing something fishy: the hotel’s restaurant has a Mediterranean influenced menu, but John also adds a hint of South African flavours to his food, drawing on dishes from his homeland. We will also gain an insight into some of the food produced by the chefs at The Circle Hospital in Reading.

For lovers of Thai food, Nawamin Pinpathomrat, the post-graduated research doctor who reached the final of the 2018 MasterChef will be cooking a splendid crab dish inspired by flavours from Thailand combined with Cornish crab.

Organiser of the Chef’s Kitchen, former Great British Bake Off quarter finalist Christine Wallace will give a fun demonstration with Howard Middleton who also appeared in Series 4 of GBBO. Together they will show off their baking skills adding a huge amount of laughter and amusement throughout the whole demonstration. Ali Imdad who was on the programme with Christine and Howard will also be showing how he is influenced by flavours from his travels and his culture.

Former That’s Life presenter and now BBC Radio Berkshire presenter Bill Buckley will show his love of cooking once more. Also new for this year will be two masterclasses on butchery skills and chocolate making. Radio presenter Al Ryan will be Master of Ceremonies.

Inspired?

Excited to get cooking? Check out our recipes and get in the foodie spirit

Reading Thames Festival

Round & About

festival

Photo: Cirque Bijou – Nic Kane

Reading Thames Festival returns for the third year with a new programme set to change the town’s cultural scene. The world-class festival is made locally, celebrating the incredible creativity of Reading and driven by it.

The four-day festival, which runs from today (26th September) until Sunday 29th, will present music, film, theatre, dance, circus, spoken word, and offer a variety of food and drink.

Taking inspiration from the Thames’ grand heritage as a rich source of creativity, this year, the festival programme addresses themes of change and transformation, exploring how music, performance and the arts can bring people together in times of social unrest.

The festival will bring together more than 20 Reading and Berkshire artists and organisations, including a new co-commission partnership with Reading University. A brand-new festival strand – Art After Dark – will be introduced by performer Janine Harrington this year, due to transform Reading for one unforgettable night. The free one-night event will present art and performances in public spaces you may encounter every day as well as secret, off-the-beaten-track sites and venues.

Among the highlights this year are:

never closer to midnight

Reading on Thames Festival and University of Reading Co Commission
Thursday 26 September
Time: Various from 12pm – 5pm
Venue: White Knights Campus, Reading University, Shinfield Road, Whiteknights Road, Reading RG6 6UA
Free, un-ticketed

A meditative, rhythmic outdoor live art installation, exploring the sense of urgency in the face of climate change by artist Janine Harrington. never closer to midnight will also feature as part of Art After Dark. Harrington’s practice involves choreography, installation, writing and performance. She is interested in game structures, play, access, neurodiversity and the poetics of movement practices.

Art After Dark

Thursday 26 September
Time: 5pm – 10.30pm
Venue: Various venues Reading town centre
Free, un-ticketed

Art After Dark is a new contemporary arts strand that will transform Reading for one night. The free one-night event will present art and performances in public spaces and venues around the town centre. The event invites you to explore Reading’s identity, culture and architecture, offering arts organisations, independent artists and curators the opportunity to present works responding to Reading and the 2019 festival themes.  The Art After Dark trail will bring Reading’s waterways, town centre, heritage quarter and University alive with artworks and pop-up performances in an array of locations. Art After Dark aims to be accessible for a broad audience, giving local people and visitors the chance to discover different places across the town and explore its hidden histories and architecture. The event aims to meet the ever-growing demand for night-time cultural events.

In A Wonderland They Lie – A Riverboat Salon

Friday 27 September
Time: 6.30pm
Venue: Thames River Cruise
Meet Point: Thames River Cruise boarding pier
Ticketed: £10 full price, £6 concessions

In A Wonderland They Lie is a floating literary and musical salon. A riverboat tour showcasing writers and musicians whose work is haunted by a certain spirit of place. Partnering with Thames Cruisers, this event will take place on board one of their beautiful boats, set to sail along the quiet middle reaches of the Thames allowing audiences to see Berkshire from the water. This intimate event is curated by the writer, broadcaster and film-maker Michael Smith.

Acid Brass Fairey Brass Band

Sunday 29 September
Time: 7.30pm – 9pm
Venue: Reading Concert Hall
Ticketed: £12 full price, £7 concessions

Acid Brass is the brainchild of the Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller. It is the unlikely fusion of Acid House anthems with the sound of a traditional British Brass Band, the result of which has received much appreciation from varied audiences across Europe and beyond. Since its conception in 1998, Acid Brass has been performed in locations such as the Tate Modern (London), The Louvre (Paris), and at many large popular music festivals across Europe. The Fairey Band is one of the most successful contesting brass bands in the world. Founded in 1937 by a group of employees at the Fairey Aviation Works in Stockport, the band has won every elite band event on the contest calendar, including the National Championships of Great Britain on nine occasions and the British Open an incredible 16 times.

Cirque Bijou

Saturday 28 September
Time: 6.30pm – 9.30pm
Venue: Reading Abbey
Ticketed: £14 full price, £7 concessions

Following the sold out 2018 Reading on Thames finale event, Cirque Bijou return to perform against the beautiful and historic backdrop of Reading Abbey. They bring the party to Reading with an immersive evening of the most contemporary of circus. Combining traditional skills and daredevilry with modern technology, live music and sophisticated styling, with beautiful, graceful and inspiring performances supported by performances from the communities of Reading against this backdrop.

More info

For full details of all the events at Reading Thames Festival visit their website

A radical festival

Round & About

festival

Despite severe weather warnings, early August saw 66,000 revellers descend upon the stunning South Downs National Park and throw themselves into the wild, magnificent and often ridiculous five-day adventure that is the mammoth Boomtown festival.

As predicted, on Friday gale force wind and heavy rainstorms threaten to dampen everyone’s spirits as tents are flattened across campsites and one of the main stages is shut down. However, the “show must go on!” Campers pull together to help their neighbours and the organisers reschedule all the acts from the closed stage.

One of the UK’s largest, independent music and theatrical festivals, Boomtown resembles something from the script of Michael Crichton’s Westworld (complete with its own Artificial Intelligence storyline). It is a theme park for adults that pulsates with stupendous sights and sounds blasting your senses all weekend. With so much on offer, here are just five reasons why Boomtown towers above the rest:

Green mission

Boomtown’s ongoing priority is to protect the environment from the impact of such a large event. One of the key messages is “Leave No Trace”. Green initiatives include no single-use plastic on sale; 100% compostable serveware; WaterAid refill stations and hundreds of recycling bins; reduced carbon emissions from travel and powering the festival; portable pouches for cigarette butts; an Eco Bond scheme to exchange bags of recycling for cash; and encouraging everyone to take everything home with them – 22,000 tents were left at Boomtown last year – a third of the festival’s capacity.

Boomtown storyline

Since the festival’s conception in 2009, the immersive element has always been entrenched in its ever-evolving storyline. The narrative this year, Chapter 11: A Radical City, has a firm focus on the environment, sustainability and activism. The story is 100% interactive and the public are invited to engage with it. There is an Immersive Maze for true gamers allowing players to go on a quest that unlocks secret areas and plot twists taking a journey deep down the rabbit hole. One person I chatted to even has business cards printed for his Boomtown persona, Xander Hawkmaul.

Theatrics and stage design

Boomtown’s fictitious city consists of 12 unique, themed districts that house thousands of actors in full costume who will engage with you and bring the city streets to life whether it’s an interrogation from the Boomtown Bobbies or a Wild West gunfight. In exchange for a toilet roll, we took a spin on the ‘Wheel of Misfortune’ and were drawn into ‘The Sweatbox’ which was the smallest rave I’ve ever experienced, contained in a vehicle that resembles a horse box.

There are 25 main stages and more than 80 street venues to explore at Boomtown. Immense structures dominate the skyline and act as creative showpieces that soar above the cavorting crowds below. Epic towers glow and shimmer with an abundance of multi-coloured lasers, gigantic screens projecting futuristic imagery and florescent acrobatic shows.

A raucous punk-inspired ex-military hanger promises shrieking guitars and trashing drums. Discarded cars piled high form a gritty, dystopian scrapyard. Flames erupt from front of stage almost as if a dragon was lashing out, spewing fire at the audience. An impressive, temple-like set has huge waterfalls flowing down each side – Mike Skinner couldn’t resist climbing up it and cooling off in the cascade mid-way through The Streets show.

Scattered throughout the woodland are forest parties adorned with a cornucopia of colourful, psychedelic decorations; multi-layered treetop walkways; hidey holes to crawl into and a beach-style retreat.

Plenty of smaller venues line the streets from pop-up nightclubs and discos to a plush ballroom, lavish hotel and casino, though to Mr Whomp’s ice cream van, the Inconvenience Store and the much-loved Office Christmas Party at the Job Centre. Sunday’s Carnival Parade is a must-see spectacle that is awash with dazzling costumes and fantastic props.

And, if all this stimulation gets too much, you can escape to the hills and relax at the spa or witness the sunset from the top of Whistlers Green looking down on all the action.

Music

Unlike other music festivals, Boomtown doesn’t rely on big name headliners to pull in the masses, however it can still compete with the “big boys” boasting household names such as Ms Lauryn Hill, The Streets, Groove Armada, Salt ‘N’ Pepa, UB40 and Chase & Status. With over 1,000 artists performing across 80 genres, the music range is diverse to say the least.

There is heavy bass booming out of every nook and cranny covering almost every electro genre imaginable, so for dance music enthusiasts it’s a dream. There are also many other musical delights waiting over every hill from punk rock and metal to reggae and ska, hip-hop and disco to folk and jazz. Boomtown champions underground subcultures so it’s easy to unearth something that you haven’t heard before.

Highlights for me come from raving in the Hidden Woods at the Calypso-inspired Soca vs Jungle Soundclash where DJs and MCs duel for audience votes; an outstanding set from techno heavyweight Carl Cox; and Beans On Toast whose folk song Magic about the birth of his daughter brings a tear to my eye – it’s Sunday by then and I must be tired and emotional.

A final push on Sunday night ends with Prophets of Rage who show they are seasoned pros by working the crowd with mosh-inducing hits from Rage Against the Machine and old school Cypress Hill and Public Enemy hip-hop tracks. Tom Morrello’s guitar skills, as always, blow me away!

The people

As you can imagine the mix of people who attend Boomtown is as diverse as the music on offer, but it works. From bucket-hat wearing Drum ‘n’ Bass kids, through cyber punks and metallers to hippies, geeks and old timers, everyone is there to have fun and party hard! You will see mad and marvellous costumes, sequins and glitter galore and the utterly bizarre.

There is a real sense of community and comradery that exudes from the festival and its inhabitants which makes it very easy to form new bonds (if only a friend for the night). Boomtown is certainly a place to leave your hang-ups at home and join in with the crazy. My only complaint is that my now 40-year-old body and mind take a whole lot longer to recover!

Read more about Boomtown

Perfect ingredients

Round & About

festival

Surrey’s food and drink hero is back!

The multi award-winning Woking Food and Drink Festival is back for the seventh consecutive year.

Spread across Woking’s main pedestrian areas, the free to attend festival has all the ingredients to serve up three days of delicious feasting, fun entertainment and interactive activities for all the family, from Friday, 30th August to Sunday, 1st September.

Taking centre stage in Jubilee Square, the purpose-built Woking Shopping Demo Theatre, supported by culinary innovator Magimix, will be home to 20 free live cookery demonstrations featuring celebrity and local chefs.

The festival is set to welcome back, Sabrina Ghayour – a successful author, cookery class and supper club host and regular TV guest presenter on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. Also making appearances are Surrey-based Chris Bavin, co-presenter on BBC’s popular Eat Well For Less and Martha Collison, Great British Bake Off quarter finalist, Waitrose food columnist and cookbook author.

A visit to the festival would not be complete without a foraging mission among over 80 food and drink traders; all fully stocked with artisan products, freshly prepared dishes and tipples.

Don’t forget to save some room for a free bite-size talk or two on a vast range of subjects from gin distilling to bees and spices to butchery.

Topping off this free to attend gastronomic experience, there’s also a smorgasbord of family entertainment on the menu – children’s cup cake decorating workshops, culinary inspired masterpieces at the arts and crafts workshops, street entertainers, live music and much more!

Wokingham Food & Drink Festival

For more information, including how to book a place on some of the bookable activities…

All aboard the Bunk!

Round & About

festival

Bunkfest returns to Wallingford and there; s so much to do you’ll want to camp out and enjoy it all

 

Folk music, dance, a beer festival and the steam railway known as the Bunk return for another year of fantastic family fun at Bunkfest.

Since its launch in 2002, the festival has evolved from its folk music origins to become more of a community event showcasing a variety of music and talents from all over.

The main stage features a variety of music over three days from 30th August to 1st September including a wealth of folk, fiddles, Celtic folk, bhangra and a Madness tribute act.

Venues around the town will be hosting music too, as well as workshops and classes for you to take part in, ride on the Bunk and take part in the Singing Train and river lovers can join the Salters cruiser with live music.

Hundreds of dancers will take to the streets of Wallingford to entertain and delight with more styles of dance to enjoy than you can tap your feet to – there’s Cotswold, Border and Northwest Morris, clog, country dance, Appalachian, Welsh folk, belly dance and Irish – a great opportunity to go along and dance yourself crazy at a Bunkfest ceilidh.

After all that dancing, beer will be needed and local breweries Loddon and Loose Cannon are joint sponsors again with both producing exclusive beers for Bunkfest. There are more than 20 to choose from and the alphabetical beet tent makes queueing easy too.

Enjoy the weekend street fair, events for children, the Bunkfest craft marquee and so many food and trade stalls you’ll be spoilt for choice.

And if you’re having so much fun you don’t to leave, check out the camping options too.

Bunkfest

For more information visit

Cheese & Chilli Festival

Karen Neville

festival

If you want to spice up your Sunday then try out the hottest ticket in town – or in Guildford at least – and get along to the Cheese & Chilli Festival in Guildford.

This will be the festival’s fourth year with a whole host of activities for all ages including free cooking demos, a taste tent, beer festival, street theatre, live music, crazy golf, human-sized table football as well as lots of cheese and chilli.

Taking place in Shalford Park today (21st), you’ll be able to enjoy the man v food challenge and a Ready Steady Cook interactive cooking session as well as the chilli eating competition when things will really be hotting up!

And what could be better after you’ve eaten some good hot chillis than taking part in a game of human-sized table football – strap yourself in and attach yourself to a metal bar and swing.

If you prefer something more sedate there are a variety of stalls, a magic show, Punch & Judy show, balloon modelling and treasure hunts to entertain the kids.

As an extra special treat at the Guildford event, there’s the chance to be a VIP with two special price tickets (£50 and £100) offering you the chance to enjoy cocktails, beers, Mexican or Thai lunch, access to the hot tubs and a bottle of hot sauce and limited edition poster.

Get your tickets

For more information and to buy tickets which cost £8 adults, seniors £6 and under 16s free, visit the Cheese & Chilli Festival website below

Tickets can also be bought at the door or in advance at Guildford’s Tourist Information Centre.

Reading Fringe

Karen Neville

festival

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

Charlbury festival

Karen Neville

festival

Free festival fun down by the riverside in Charlbury

Head down to the river this weekend for free family fun in Charlbury at the ever-popular Riverside Festival.

Held on the banks of the Evenlode, it has grown over the past 24 years, attracting thousands of music lovers who this year will be able to enjoy the US rock band The Pixies among many others. For youngsters there will be free pixie fun activities to join in.

There’s a packed programme of music on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st with more than 40 acts playing across four stages – rock, indie, jazz, and folk on the main two stages and all sorts on the Fringe and Buskers stages!

Headlining the main stage on Saturday is four-piece Oxford band Kanadia. Their big and bold alt rock sound and impressive stage presence has won them a growing fan base in Europe and a big following across the Atlantic in Mexico, the US and Canada.
Sunday headliner is popular upbeat garage punk band Self Help.

Other acts to look out for are Riverside favourites 2 Tone All Skas, The Knights of Mentis, Mighty Redox and eclectic Turkabilly band, Brickwork Lizards.

The second stage, run by independent record stores, Rapture in Witney and The Truck Store in Oxford has an impressive line-up of local bands including Peerless Pirates, Death of the Maiden and Ghosts in the Photographs.

The festival takes place in The Mill Field, Dyers Hill, Charlbury with entry opposite Charlbury railway station.

For more information and details

Guildford Summer Festival

Round & About

festival

Guildford Summer Festival, with sponsor Silent Pool Gin, is back for its 36th year between 8th June to 10th August

Guildford Summer Festival is a huge celebration of all that is great and good about the town.

You’ll be able to enjoy a whole host of theatre, sport, art, music, walks, heritage, tours and days out to keep you busy over the summer.

New events for this year include Animal Encounter Tours at Merrist Wood and the University of Surrey Conductors Concert at Holy Trinity Church. Don’t miss the Woodland Fairy Fair at Watts Gallery and take a trip to the beach at Guildford on sea outside the Electric Theatre.

Popular returning attractions include the festival craft fair, farmers’ markets, cricket festival, Guildford Lions raft race, drama in the castle grounds and classical concerts. Also back by popular demand are the free Alice Day at the castle (3rd August) and the Cheese and Chili Festivals at Shalford Park (21st & 22nd July).
Join a free guided town walk exploring the history, the Alan Turing walk and new Leading Lights Walk where you can meet characters from the past. Staying outdoors there’s the Round the Hogs Back Cycle Tour to join too.

The whole Guildford Summer Festival is being sponsored by Silent Pool Gin.

There are arts exhibitions to view at the Mill Studio, Watts Gallery and Guildford House Gallery and theatre at G Live and the Yvonne Arnaud as well as Guildford Fringe Festival at several venues in July.

Find out more

Festival brochures can be picked up at the Tourist Information Centre and tickets are on sale now for most events.