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What's On: Car park panto and virtual craft fairs

From car park panto to virtual craft fairs and socially-distanced exhibitions, here’s how the world of arts and culture is treating us to our festive fix of events, 2020-style


Embrace the dark side, channel your inner Time Lord and get up close and personal with a Dalek at Moyse’s Hall Museum’s 12th annual Sci-Fi and Action exhibition. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back, the fascinating show will feature a display of props and memorabilia from the movie that introduced us to Yoda, AT-AT walkers and a shocking family revelation. There’ll also be a focus on the Battlestar Galactica franchise, Tardis hopping to the Tom Baker era of Dr Who, the chance to meet a Dalek (eek!) and a glimpse of a prop used in the cult 80s comedy horror Gremlins. It’s going to be out of this world!

See the Sci-Fi and Action exhibition until December 20 at Moyse’s Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds. Face masks will be required and numbers limited. Visit moyseshall.org


What is Christmas without a large dose of innuendo-fuelled panto, complete with flying custard pies, slapstick humour, an outrageously camp Dame and a boo-inducing baddy? It just wouldn’t be the same, no matter how many Brussels sprouts you ingested! So, we’re jingling with excitement at the news that IWM Duxford will host a Car Park Panto on December 12, in partnership with the Birmingham Stage Company and Horrible Histories. Families will be able to revel in all the fun of a socially distanced festive show, from the comfort of their sleighs/cars.

‘Horrible Christmas’ is the story of how Christmas came to be what it is today, featuring a host of colourful, historical characters, from Victorian villains to medieval monks. As the season of goodwill comes under threat from a rotund jolly fellow in a red suit, it’s up to one young boy to save the day -helped by sidekicks Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell, King Henry VIII and St Nicholas. A happy, funny, moving and alternative celebration of Christmas.

Book your tickets (£45 per car) at carparkparty.com


There is something so special about receiving a one-of-a-kind handcrafted gift, lovingly produced by a local designer/maker. That’s why, every year, we can’t wait for Histon Handmade’s Christmas contemporary design and craft fair. This year – owing to coronavirus restrictions – the event is postponed, but in its place Histon Handmade Marketplace launches on November 2. So sit back and enjoy scrolling through a stunning array of gifts, from exquisite jewellery, ceramics, textiles, decorations and homewares to original prints, illustrations, and quirky gifts. Be dazzled by the contemporary silver and gold jewellery of Histon Handmade’s founder Claire Howieson, add style to your furnishings with Anna Osborne’s embroidered lampshades, cushions and bags (inspired by the flora and fauna of the East Anglian landscape), and introduce a festive flavour to your home with Jutta Robinson’s fabulous fused glass hangings.

Shop the lot at histonhandmade.com


The Library Presents Wiggle Dance Theatre (42650591)
The Library Presents Wiggle Dance Theatre (42650591)

Even if you’re unlucky enough to be shielding or quarantining, you can stay connected to a captivating world of arts and entertainment, thanks to The Library Presents. Their ‘In Your House’ autumn season offers free arts events - both online and in locations across Cambridgeshire - including music, drama, art, dance, storytelling, comedy, puppetry, magic, digital arts and workshops.

Look out for Dancing Jukebox Gems by Wriggle Dance Theatre, which is touring Cambridgeshire towns to take residents on a trip down memory lane through dance, live music and song. Expect an uplifting medley of Lindy Hop, Hippie Shake, comedy disco moves and a spot of Jailhouse Rock!

In total, there’s more than 80 free events to be enjoyed online or in the community.

See the full line up at library.live/the-library-presents .


Abbeygate Cinema Building Blocks Wall(42650523)
Abbeygate Cinema Building Blocks Wall(42650523)

Hot on the heels of launching its state-of-the-art Premier Screen, Abbeygate Cinema has unveiled a Building Blocks Donor Wall. In recognition of the £33,000 raised by supporters as part of the Building Blocks 2020 fund-raising campaign, the impressive wall was specially curated by local wood carver and designer, John Williams.

2020 marks the 100th year anniversary of the independent cinema on Hatter Street. “When lockdown forced us to close in March, we had a huge decision to make – to either ‘mothball’ the development of the building, or press on with creating the new Premier Screen,” explains project manager, Chris Peters. “We chose the latter as we firmly believed that in this centenary year, we owed it to the legacy of the building, and to our fantastically loyal and committed audience, to use the down time with optimism to finish off the new screen and take the Abbeygate to the next level.”

Find out more about Abbeygate Cinema at abbeygatecinema.co.uk


Looking For Me Friend - The Music of Victoria Wood (42650579)
Looking For Me Friend - The Music of Victoria Wood (42650579)

With a remarkable ability to tease the funny out of the ordinary in madcap sketches covering HRT patches and pelvic floors to knitting and guttering, Victoria Wood’s extraordinary comic talent may be gone, but it’s not forgotten. In homage to the funny-boned genius, Looking For Me Friend – The Music of Victoria Wood will see Paulus (of BBC1’s All Together Now), accompanied by Michael Roulston on piano (Fascinating Aida & Julie, Madly, Deeply), perform 12 of Victoria’s best-loved songs. Listen out for the classic ‘Ballad of Barry & Freda (Let’s Do It)’ alongside some lesser-known, more poignant compositions during a gloriously nostalgic hour of entertainment.

Looking For Me Friend – The Music of Victoria Wood, November 14, at the Town and Gown Pub & Theatre, Cambridge. Visit townandgown.co.uk


Sleeping Beauty at ADC Theatre(42650589)
Sleeping Beauty at ADC Theatre(42650589)

The classic fairytale of Sleeping Beauty gets turned on its head as tradition is given the heave-ho in the CUADC/Footlights Panto. Rudely awaken from her slumber, Sleeping Beauty baulks at the idea of marrying a prince, choosing the path of adventure instead. Our hero infiltrates the world of evil bosses, Jake and Will Grimm, and embarks on a dangerous mission to find an escaped Panto Horse, and save her colleagues' jobs. But everything is not as it seems – and our ballsy Beauty must work with her friends, locate the horse and ship off the baddies, next day delivery!

CUADC/Footlights Panto 2020: Sleeping Beauty at ADC Theatre, Cambridge, November 25 – December 5. More at adctheatre.com


Ely Cathedral’s incredibly popular Christmas Gift & Food Fair is going virtual this month, so grab a glass of mulled wine and a mincepie and prepare for a festive shopathon! No need to worry about elbowing your way to the best stall this year as the Christmas extravaganza will run online from November 15 to December 20, featuring more than 150 ‘stalls’. There’ll be a fabulous selection of bespoke products, spanning home décor, clothes and accessories, handmade arts and crafts, beautiful jewellery, and festive food. And to get you in the spirit, there’ll even be a tinsel-topped programme of virtual entertainment including carols by the Cathedral Choristers, seasonal workshops, giftwrapping demos, a Christmas cake bake off, and a unique performance of festive music by Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull. Log on and support the region’s small independent businesses as well as securing yourself some truly exceptional gifts.

Visit elycathedral.org for a full programme of events and a detailed exhibitors list.


Community Art Gallery at North Cambridge Academy (42650534)
Community Art Gallery at North Cambridge Academy (42650534)

Art has the power to uplift and inspire, and it’s certainly created a thought-provoking canvas for students returning to North Cambridge Academy at the start of autumn term. In May, Principal Samuel Fox contacted various local art societies – including Cambridge Open Studios - requesting artworks to add colour to the school walls. Thanks to an overwhelming response, there’s now 50 pieces, including paintings, prints and sculptures, on display in the Community Art Gallery.

“The challenges over the last year have meant the role of art in creating inspiration and beauty has never been so important,” explains Mr Fox. “We are delighted that the donations have helped create such a vibrant space for our young people and the community.”

View the artworks on the school’s twitter account @northcamacademy


James Blunt(42650571)
James Blunt(42650571)

If you pined for live gigs throughout our lockdown summer, we bring new that will be music to your ears! Heritage Live has announced that James Blunt will play Audley End House & Gardens next August, as spectacular open-air concerts return to the Jacobean mansion. BRIT Award-winner James, who clinched 2005’s Biggest Selling UK Album title with Back to Bedlam (who can forget the incredible single You’re Beautiful?) and has penned five further albums, including last year’s Once Upon A Mind, will be supported by Craig Charles’ Funk & Soul Show and the Hackney Colliery Band. Pack the picnic and get the champagne on ice, to raise a plastic flute to the return of live music!

See James Blunt plus special guests on August 13 at Audley End House & Gardens, Saffron Walden. Visit ticketmaster.co.uk to book tickets


Walking has never been as popular as we strive to embrace life’s simpler pursuits. But if you’re tired of your well-trodden daily pilgrimage, try one of the ‘Walking Stories’ created by Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.

Back in June, the theatre appealed for Suffolk storytellers to send in hidden tales of where they live - and eight routes, with accompanying narrative, were subsequently selected.

“Some are based on historical facts but use fictional characters to bring them to life, others take a slice of history and recount it from the voice of local residents at the time and one is entirely fictional but set in the Bury St Edmunds streets that we know so well,” explains CEO/Artistic Director Owen Calvert-Lyons. “One is a beautifully fanciful walk straight from the imagination of a mum and her children on their adventurous walk home from school.”

The Walking Stories are voiced by professional actors including Terry Molloy (Dr Who, The Archers) with original music and sound design by composer, David Lewington, accompanied by a beautifully hand drawn and illustrated map - available to download from Theatre Royal’s website.

Download your favourite at theatreroyal.org/walking-stories/


Sleigh your festive shopping list in one click as the ever popular Crafts at Blackthorpe Barn heads online, offering a treasure trove of distinctive handmade pieces. Now in its 29th year – and usually housed beneath the oak beams of a medieval barn on the Rougham Estate - Virtual Crafts offers an eclectic mix of one-off creations, from striking geometric jewellery and whimsical watercolours to shabby chic wooden signs and cosy handwoven cushions.

Marvel at Copperknit’s sculptural 3D wall art and intricately woven textile jewellery, Potash leather’s divine bags, designed in Suffolk from vegetable-tanned leather, and Earring Café’s ditsy glass goodies melted in a Red Shed in Coventry.

Painstakingly crafted by an array of wonderful makers, the extraordinary exhibits can be ordered for delivery by first-class courier, with hard to post pieces available for collection from Blackthorpe Barn itself.

Virtual Crafts is open now, so grab your festive wish list and get crossing off those relatives.

Visit blackthorpebarn.com/crafts


Take a peek into the life of unsung Arts and Crafts artisan decorator David Parr using a new online 3D tour of his Cambridge home at 186 Gwydir Street. David Parr House is a unique time capsule of Victorian working-class art and life, its intricately patterned walls a fascinating insight into the work of late 19th century masters, including William Morris.

Prior to lockdown physical tours of the tiny terrace were so popular, tickets were selling out. But now, thanks to a Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Resilience Grant of £40,212, awarded by Historic England, art-lovers can enjoy an innovative real-time digital tour of the house and a new audio tour for socially-distanced visitors, delivered by the property’s knowledgeable volunteers.

186 Gwydir Street has also been Listed at Grade II* by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with 3 St Mary’s Passage – which housed the showroom of F R Leach & Sons, a nationally-renowned firm of artistic workmen who employed David Parr – awarded Grade II status.

Book your personal guided online 3D tour at davidparrhouse.org/visit/


Keane, Picture Jon Stone(42650574)
Keane, Picture Jon Stone(42650574)

Never mind Christmas, we’ve got our sights firmly set on next summer, when East Sussex rockers Keane are set to return to Thetford Forest, a decade after their last appearance on the High Lodge stage. Best known for their seminal debut smash Hopes and Fears, which generated hit singles including Somewhere Only We Know and Everybody’s Changing, Keane have sold over 13 million albums. After a six year hiatus, they made a triumphant return in 2019, with their latest studio album Cause and Effect.

Keane, with special guests Flyte and support from Michael Ryan, will play Thetford Forest on June 18, 2021, the day after Rag’n’Bone Man kicks off the Forest Live series.

Tickets are on sale now at forestryengland.uk/music

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