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Open Season in Cambridge

Hurrah! It’s Open Cambridge time of year again, when the city opens the doors on its hidden treasures. Velvet’s Sarah Ingram takes her pick from the programme

Part of the National Heritage Open Days scheme, Open Cambridge is a celebration of everything that makes Cambridge special. This year’s programme is packed full of exciting free events and activities, so if you’ve ever wondered how on earth the University Library looks after its eight million books, or what the Vikings ever did for Cambridge, now’s your chance to find out.

You can take a peek behind the scenes at the Cambridge Mosque on Mawson Road; enjoy a tour of Cambridge’s commons by bike; marvel at the majestic College backs from the comfort of a punt on the ever-popular Complete Cambridge Tour; feast your eyes on the internationally acclaimed collection by women artists at Murray Edwards College, also home to award-winning gardens; or experience a guided walk around the ultra-modern Biomedical Campus where academia, industry, research and health collaborate.

Open Cambvridge MAIN IMAGE (14737686)
Open Cambvridge MAIN IMAGE (14737686)

“What makes Open Cambridge so special and important is that it highlights some of the many fascinating stories of this incredible city, and gives people a rare chance to see places they wouldn’t usually get to see,” says Sue Long, coordinator of Open Cambridge since it started 12 years ago. “Every year I love to see the eclectic mix of walks, talks, tours and exhibitions that the programme produces. It’s a city that never ceases to amaze me, as I’m sure it does for the more than 10,000 people, residents and visitors to the city, who attend the events each year.”

Here are six of Velvet’s highlights, but with more than 80 fabulous events to choose from, we recommend you get yourselves a programme pronto. . .

Yoko Ono: Sky Pieces

A pioneer of Conceptual Art, Yoko Ono has had a fascination with the sky as a metaphor for peace and freedom since the early 1960s. This exhibition fills the Heong Gallery with pieces of the sky through its central piece, Sky TV (1966/2019), in which a closed-circuit camera on the roof of the gallery transmits real-time views of the sky through a network of 25 television monitors into the gallery. The exhibition extends into the grounds of Downing College with the piece Wish Trees (1981/2019) which invites visitors to hang a wish on a tree branch.

Heong Gallery, Downing College. Friday and Saturday, September 13 and 14, 12-5pm, drop in.

Cambridge Fire Station Open Day

Open Cambridge Fire Station Tour (14737684)
Open Cambridge Fire Station Tour (14737684)

Cambridge Fire Station opens its doors for the two days of Open Cambridge so that members of the public can find out what life is like in a working fire station. Meet some of Cambridge’s firefighters and hear all about what they get up to, the different sorts of jobs they do, and the emergencies they attend. With hands-on activities, an exhibition, and a tour of the Fire Station, this event offers something for everyone.

Cambridge Fire Station, Parkside. Friday and Saturday, September 13 and 14, 11am-4pm, drop in, all ages.

Mill Road History Society Walk: Beyond Reality Checkpoint

Open Cambridge Mill Road Tour - Coffee House, Devonshire Road (14737688)
Open Cambridge Mill Road Tour - Coffee House, Devonshire Road (14737688)

Cambridge’s famous Mill Road is the road where the University and town authorities put everything they didn’t want to think about, like the workhouse, the cemetery, the hospital for infectious diseases, and even the railway. Clearly, a fascinating place!

The tour takes you from Donkey Common to the Bath House via what used to be the workhouse and the maternity hospital. Find out what it was like to be a child waiting for the Saturday film at the Playhouse, and hear the stories of what was once known as The Sin Bin of the City.

At the end of the tour, there are light refreshments, a small exhibition, and a talk about the Bath House.

Meet at Mortimer Road, CB1 1LY. Saturday, September 14, 10.15am-12.30pm, booking required, ages 14+.

Open Eddington

Cambridge’s newest community, Eddington hosts an exciting day of activities, talks, tours and entertainment for all ages. There’s live music from the Brass Funkeys or you can make your own music using supersonic recycled objects in the Junkyard Orchestra Sound Garden.

Explore Eddington itself with a self-guided tour (and family treasure hunt) that showcases the quality of the development and the sustainability principles behind it. When you get hungry, there’s food to be had from some of the region’s favourite food trucks.

If you’d like a guided tour, there are several to choose from, such as the Follow the Air tour of the unique underground labyrinth system that ventilates and cools the award-winning Storey’s Field Centre.

Eddington, CB3. Saturday, September 14, 10am-4pm, drop in and pre-bookable events, all ages.

Open Observatory

Open Cambridge Cambridge Observatory (14737682)
Open Cambridge Cambridge Observatory (14737682)

Here’s a wonderful chance to explore the Cambridge Observatory, a fascinating neo-classical building established in 1823 that houses one of the very few specialist astronomical libraries in the country, not to mention the engineering marvel that is the great Northumberland Telescope of 1838, and the Thorrowgood Telescope of 1864.

The Observatory, Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road, CB3 0HA. Friday, September 13, 4-6pm, drop in, age 11+.

Treasures of St John’s Old Library

Not only is this Jacobean Library a thing of beauty in itself, it houses a collection that spans more than a thousand years. Its treasures include richly decorated medieval manuscripts, highlights from the early years of printing, pioneering photography, and the papers of key literary and scientific figures from across the years, a selection of which will be on display.

The Old Library, St John’s College, CB2 1TP. Friday, September 13, 2-4pm and Saturday, September 14, 1-4pm drop in, all ages.

To download a programme, find out more about the events (including accessibility), or to pre-book a place, visit opencambridge.cam.ac.uk or call (01223) 766766. Lines are open 11am-3pm, Monday to Friday.

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