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What's On: Celebrating the great arts comeback!

Say hello to the great arts comeback, with Cambridge Arts Theatre reopening its doors, a gorgeous new gallery in Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge Comedy Festival, live music at The Apex, and so much more


After the longest period of closure since the Second World War, Cambridge Arts Theatre reopens this month with a glittering cast of stars, led by distinguished actor Ralph Fiennes. Famed for his nuanced performances in movies such as Schindler’s List and The English Patient - plus a frankly terrifying portrayal of Voldemort in Harry Potter - Fiennes directs and stars in a new stage adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.

There’s the crème de la crème of the West End, with musicals, drama and smash-hit comedies including the spine-tingling ghost story The Woman in Black; Willy Nelson’s moving tale of twins separated at birth, Blood Brothers; daredevil stunts and jawdropping feats in Magic Goes Wrong; and hell-raising high school teens in Groan Ups.

World-class drama is firmly on the bill courtesy of Oleanna, David Mamet’s controversial play about political correctness and campus sexual harassment; Michael Frayn’s multi award-winning Copenhagen, an exploration of two brilliant minds in 1941 Nazi occupied Copenhagen; and espionage drama A Splinter of Ice.

Big names abound, with Julian Clary and Matthew Kelly teaming up in a hilarious portrait of backstage life in The Dresser, and Nigel Havers and Patricia Hodge starring in the Noel Coward classic Private Lives.

For the little people, Julia Donaldson’s The Snail and the Whale sets sail in spectacular fashion and David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny delivers a heart-warming message, whilst Barmy Britain reveals the horrible history of our great country (minus the nasty bits!).

A truly thrilling season at a much-missed theatre; get those tickets booked!

Visit cambridgeartstheatre.com


National Stud tours resume, Picture Dominic James Photography (47290258)
National Stud tours resume, Picture Dominic James Photography (47290258)

Venture behind the scenes of the home of horseracing as Discover Newmarket’s fascinating tours of The National Stud have resumed. The 90-minute public tours give visitors a chance to see newborn foals at play with mares in the paddocks, see yearlings and stallions, hear about the history of the stud and gain a unique insight into a thoroughbred breeding operation.

Tours of the National Stud, set in 500 acres of grounds at the edge of Newmarket, cost £15 per person or £35 for a family ticket.

Find out more at discovernewmarket.co.uk


Joanna Eden playing The Apex, Bury (47290161)
Joanna Eden playing The Apex, Bury (47290161)

Music to our ears – quite literally – is the news that The Apex auditorium will once more be filled with a heavenly live soundtrack of jazz, classical, rock, and folk, plus the buzz of an excited audience. The Bury venue has launched a ‘Socially Distanced Season’, welcoming music lovers back indoors, for a series of reduced capacity shows. On the bill this month is the UK’s answer to Norah Jones, jazz-influenced songbird Joanna Eden; internationally-renowned violinist Omar Puente; pioneering vocalist Najma Akhtar (who has collaborated with the likes of Nina Simone, Basement Jaxx and Jethro Tull); and BAFTA nominated comic singer-songwriter Richard Digance, who’ll be performing not once, not twice, but four times! What a legend.

Call The Apex Box Office on (01284) 758000 or visit theapex.co.uk


Birds of prey event at National Horse Racing Museum (47290130)
Birds of prey event at National Horse Racing Museum (47290130)

Marvel at majestic birds in flight at the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket on Saturday, June 5. The awe-inspiring birds of prey display will feature hawks, falcons and eagles, with a variety of falconry equipment on show, plus fascinating facts about how these magnificent species hunt for food. Oscar the Shetland pony will be trotting around the museum grounds, plus there’ll be a farmers’ market, a sizzling barbecue and picnics available (pre-order from The Bakery). Let’s hope the sun puts in an appearance for this fun family day out.

Pre-book tickets at nhrm.co.uk/event/birds-prey


Art in East Anglia gallery in Bury St Edmunds (47290126)
Art in East Anglia gallery in Bury St Edmunds (47290126)

It began as an online art community dedicated to celebrating the work of home-grown talent and has evolved over three years into a bricks-and-mortar art gallery. Art in East Anglia, the bright airy space in Langton Place, Bury St Edmunds, which launched this spring, showcases the work of gifted artists from across Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk, spanning painting, fine-art photography, printmaking, ceramics and sculptures.

As well as having the opportunity to display their pieces, exhibiting artists are given a package of marketing support, including copywriting, social media, email campaigns and newsletters.

The gallery is the brainchild of art consultant and marketing guru Michele Bailey and graphic designer Chris Witham.

Art in East Anglia is at 10 Langton Place, Bury St Edmunds. Visit artineastanglia.com


Fairies and Elves at Audley End Miniature Railway (47290143)
Fairies and Elves at Audley End Miniature Railway (47290143)

Where do wriggly worms lay their heads? What do ants like to snack on? If these are some of the nature questions your little ones ponder, they can find all the answers at Audley End Miniature Railway this summer. Aside from a 1.5-mile ride through the picturesque woods on a dinky red train, and a magical trip through the Fairy and Elf Walk, visitors can now enjoy a new nature corner, that features bug hotels, wormeries, bird boxes and ant houses. Aspiring naturalists can learn all about the big world of little creatures, exploring their different habitats and enjoying interactive shows throughout a day of wonderful wildlife encounters. After bug hunting, there’s a chance to let off some steam zooming down slides and clambering through tunnels in the bespoke railway-themed adventure playground. Sounds wild!

Book tickets at audley-end-railway.co.uk


Castle Mound by Chris Williamson at Byard Art (47290136)
Castle Mound by Chris Williamson at Byard Art (47290136)

Travel opportunities may be limited this summer, so let Byard Art take you on a trip around the world - from Paris to Hebden - in its latest exhibition, Location, Location. Featuring paintings, sculpture, crafts, prints and jewellery, explore breath-taking scenery from the comfort of the gallery on King’s Parade.

Look out for Chris Williamson’s whimsical landscapes, which feature his faithful Jack Russell, and are accompanied by humorous four-line ditties, describing the scene through the eyes of his four-legged companion. Also Elisabeth Lecourt’s eye-catching map dresses, Maureen Mace’s dream-like trees with sweeping Cambridge backdrops and Claire Turner’s atmospheric textile pieces depicting architecture and cityscapes. Fuel your passion for travel by viewing the exhibition in the gallery, from June 3 -27 or online at byardart.co.uk


ADC Theatre reopens, Picture Lucia Revel-Chion (47290100)
ADC Theatre reopens, Picture Lucia Revel-Chion (47290100)

A captivating programme of drama awaits at The ADC Theatre and sister venue the Corpus Playroom this season. Coming up at Cambridge’s largest student venue is Nina Raine’s bracingly clever courtroom drama Consent, which garnered glowing reviews with its original production at the National Theatre, and the all-singing, all dancing comedy rock musical Little Shop of Horrors. Summer highlights include world-renown company Ballet Central returning for a one-off dance show in July, and the classic work of Irish theatre, lyrical comedy The Playboy of the Western World.

The ADC, famous for nurturing talents including Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Rachel Weisz, will perform to a socially-distanced auditorium, as well as livestreaming the majority of its shows for home audiences to enjoy. Ideal.

Book tickets, including livestreams, at adctheatre.com


Jodie Prenger in Tell Me On A Sunday at Theatre Royal Bury (47290169)
Jodie Prenger in Tell Me On A Sunday at Theatre Royal Bury (47290169)

She shot to fame after being crowned winner of BBC TV series I’d Do Anything back in 2008 – and Jodie Prenger’s musical career is soaring as high as her showstopping arias. Hot on the heels of acclaimed performances in the National Theatre’s production of A Taste of Honey, Oliver!, One Man Two Governors, Annie, Abigail's Party and Calamity Jane, Jodie is set to play Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s iconic musical, Tell Me On A Sunday.

Jodie will reprise the role of Emma, which she first brought to life in 2016, a young English girl in New York navigating love and life in the heady 1980’s.

The new production – which includes chart-topping tracks Take That Look Off Your Face, and title track Tell Me on a Sunday, includes an intimate post-show chat with Jodie charting her life, love and experience playing the role of ‘Emma’.

Tell Me On A Sunday is at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds from November 2-6. Book tickets at theatreroyal.org


Esther Montero exhibiting at Cambridge Open Studios (47290141)
Esther Montero exhibiting at Cambridge Open Studios (47290141)

July is set to be an explosion of vibrant colour as artists throw open their workshops to showcase fine art, photography, pottery, sculpture, textiles, jewellery and more for Cambridge Open Studios. Look out for the distinctive CoS yellow flags flying proudly at participating studios, from Royston, Saffron Walden and Cambridge to St Ives, Chatteris and Ely.

There’s 300 artists taking part (including 40 new members), with some exhibitors welcoming the public to their studios, others ‘open by appointment’, and several opting for ‘open window’ displays or outdoor gazebo galleries.

The Pitt Building in Cambridge is an event partner this year, so will host a wide range of artists over the four weekends.

Full details of participating venues can be found online, via the Cambridge Open Studios app and e-guide book, which can be downloaded from late May, and replace the traditional yellow printed guide. Visit camopenstudios.co.uk

See July’s Velvet for a spotlight on eight amazing participating artists


Solitude can be an important part of the creative process for some artists, but others can find working alone for hours on end somewhat lonely. Recognising this issue, two local artists Gabby Gilmore and Ellie Breeze have launched Virtual Hatch Club. The virtual art studio is accessible to all local arts-based professionals, providing networking opportunities as well as structure and accountability for an industry of freelancers who have to rely on self-motivation to get things done.

Available on Discord, a free digital platform, it is being supported by Motion Sickness Project Space, an art gallery based at the Lion Yard.

Members will have access to weekly video check ins, drop in video streaming spaces for ‘water cooler moments’, and discussion.

Find out more at hatchcluborg.wordpress.com


How do you fancy making a bee bomb for your garden, creating a paper pot or willow weaving a giant hedgehog? Sounds fun, right? These are just some of the inspired options available at Haddenham Arts Centre which is holding an Eco Family Festival on Sunday, June 13, as part of its Open Weekend. On the Saturday (June 12), bring your shopping tote to the Handmade Art Market, to snap up some gorgeous gifts; there’ll be jewellery, ceramics, glass, metal, recycled inner tube bags, paper art and textiles, from an endless list of talented artists. Meet the makers and enjoy a guest beer from Three Blind Mice Brewery and live music courtesy of Pennyless Folk Duo. Next day throw yourself into an eco workshop or two (recycled dragon fly? Japanese flower printing?) and treat yourself to a vegan picnic from Lucy at Power Plant (prebookable).

Full details at haddenhamartscentre.org.uk


Cambridge Comedy Festival (47290132)
Cambridge Comedy Festival (47290132)

There’s no doubt that we could all do with a good dose of belly-laughter right now, and happy to oblige are the funny folk headlining this year’s Cambridge Comedy Festival. Among the 150 side-splitting acts are household names from TV and stage, including Rob Beckett, Milton Jones, Dara Ó Briain, Ed Byrne, Nina Conti, Al Murray, Reginald D Hunter and Russell Kane.

Taking place at Grange Farm, Abbot’s Ripton, on the site where Secret Garden Party used to take place, the three-day extravaganza boasts four stages, kids/family shows, camping, a DJ area and a freshwater swimming lake!

Now in its 14th year, Cambridge Comedy Festival began as a micro version of the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe, but has grown into a fully-fledged festival in its own right.

Organiser Andy White, of 2 Ton Productions, says: “Obviously creating such an ambitious event which will basically be the UK’s first ever all comedy three-day festival with camping is a huge project, and I guess I must be a bit bonkers attempting it during the world’s worst pandemic for 100 years – but what the heck, we’re going for it anyway as we all need a good laugh and weekend away.”

Cambridge Comedy Festival takes place July 9 – 11. Find out more at cambridgecomedyfestival.com


Graffiti Classics at The Library Presents, Picture David Pickens Photography (47290145)
Graffiti Classics at The Library Presents, Picture David Pickens Photography (47290145)

From Cherry Hinton Hall Park to St Neots Market Square, alfresco venues across the region will host pop-up shows this summer courtesy of The Library Presents. Bringing high-quality arts activities to the heart of towns and villages across Cambridgeshire until July 17, the line-up includes music, theatre, comedy, puppetry extravaganzas and educational shows. Highlights are set to include wickedly funny string quartet, Graffiti Classics; slapstick and magic from Story Pocket Theatre; fast-paced science in Journey into Space; three decades of fun music and comedy dance moves from the Dancing Jukebox Gems; and The Lost Colour - an outdoor puppet spectacular.

The Library Presents’ is run by Cambridgeshire County Council working with Babylon ARTS and funded by Arts Council England.

Book tickets at library.live/the-library-presents


Join in a celebration of all that we love about the Fens in this year’s Ely Arts Festival. With last year’s event put on hold due to the pandemic, organisers are more determined than ever to shine a light on the ‘spirit of the Fens’, through a series of varied arts and cultural events.

Launching with a rousing concert on June 12 by Britten Sinfonia at Ely Cathedral, the festival will feature live music from Lantivet Duo, a Jubilee Jamboree family day (with craft activities and a teddy bears’ picnic), live comedy, and Fen Speak open-mic poetry.

The extravaganza closes on June 27 when Babylon ARTS bring Lamphouse Theatre to Jubilee Gardens for two free family-friendly performance of their Suitcase Shakespeare Romeo & Juliet show.

Find out more about Ely Arts Festival 2021, which runs June 12-27, at elyartsfestival.org

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