What's On: Unmissable events this month and next
Have a laugh at an Alan Ayckbourn classic and follow an inspiring ‘pizza box’ art trail around Bury St Edmunds, rock out with McFly in Newmarket and pencil in those Cambridge gig dates
Brought up in the rolling hills of North Yorkshire to a soundtrack of Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake and Kate Bush, Billie Marten grew up with a deep love for folk music and nature. Now 21, and having just released her third album, those influences seep through her spellbinding lyrics and signature hushed resonant vocals.
Billie, who was signed to Sony at the age of 16, released her single Creature of Mine (taken from her third album Flora Fauna), in May, to rapturous praise; Annie Mac named it the Hottest Record In The World on BBC Radio 1. Flora Fauna – built on the minimalist folk foundations Billie has become known for – showcases a more mature sound, with a strong backbone of bass and rhythm.
Billie, whose real name is Isabella Sophia Tweddle (but she plumped for a stage name as her own kept on being spelt wrong), plays The Portland Arms, Cambridge, on September 28.
Find out more at theportlandarms.co.uk
SLICE OF LIFE
Artists have been tasked with thinking outside the box – the pizza box, to be exact – to illustrate what they believe makes Bury St Edmunds tick. As part of West Suffolk Council’s Art Around Town initiative, 300 local artists were each given a 10-inch pizza box as a canvas upon which to depict what Bury means to them, inspired by its characters, landmarks and best-kept secrets.
The finished artworks are on display in the windows of shops and public buildings in the town centre, as well as in some unusual locations, until September 30.
Head to Abbey Gardens and peek inside the aviaries to see some stunning exhibits including budgie -lover Mandy Renton’s resplendent bird portraits in full ‘floofiness’. And stop by Smoking Money Antiques on St John’s Street, to see a literal ‘Dolly Mixture’, courtesy of regular customer, artist Jamie Andrews, who took just two hours to melt 20 plastic dolls into his box.
The Art Around Town project has been set up in association with the Moments contemporary art exhibition at Moyse’s Hall Museum. To locate all the pizza box artworks pick up a free leaflet from The Apex, visit the Art Around Town Instagram page @ artaroundtownbury or whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk/whats-on
Renowned for its enchanting performances, reviving long-lost masterpieces and breathing new life into familiar works, Cambridge’s Academy of Ancient Music has been nominated for Gramophone’s Orchestra of the Year award.
It’s quite the coup as only 10 orchestras worldwide are shortlisted for the prestigious accolade each year.
Established in Cambridge in 1973, AAM has just unveiled its exciting 2021-22 season, with concerts at the Barbican, Milton Court and West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge. Programme highlights include a performance of Haydn’s The Creation with immersive digital projections designed by Nina Dunn; a ‘magical history tour’ through works by Handel, Rameau and Geminiani with narrator Josette Simon OBE; and an evening of Georgian drama featuring international mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg.
The award winner will be announced on October 5 at the 2021 Gramophone Classical Music Awards.
To vote for AAM visit gramophone.co.uk/awards or find out more about the orchestra at aam.co.uk
Equine enthusiasts are set to descend on Newmarket next month for an action-packed weekend of events as the Henry Cecil Open Weekend returns.
An opportunity for a glimpse into horseracing’s HQ, visitors can go behind the scenes of Britain’s best-known training operations and join tours of the National Stud and British Racing School, amongst other sites.
On the Saturday, see the Al Shaqab RoR (check) Hacks Class at the National Horse Racing Museum before an awesome afternoon of live racing at Newmarket Racecourse. Next day, head to the Severals for the thrilling Clipper Logistics show jumping competition, Martin Collins pony club games, and a fun local dog show.
Last year’s weekend went ‘virtual’ due to pandemic restrictions, and was incredibly successful, raising £48,000 for its three chosen beneficiaries; Racing Welfare, the British Racing School and the Racing Centre.
This year’s event, taking place September 18-19, will support racing staff in Newmarket and the wider community, with funds earmarked for Racing Welfare, the newly formed Newmarket Pony Academy, and community projects.
See full details at thehenrycecilopenweekend.co.uk
September is traditionally a month characterised by returning to school after the long summer break and knuckling down to work. But this year The Cambridge Club offers some light relief from studying, inviting you to ‘dance, disco and discover’ at its feel-good family festival, September 10-12.
Bringing musical magic to the idyllic Cambridgeshire countryside at new venue, Childerley Orchard, it promises a 3-day feast of funk, soul, disco, blues and R&B, plus comedy, family entertainment, delicious food and drink.
Headliners include Sussex soulman Rag’n’bone Man, dance-pop favourite Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Queen of British soul Beverley Knight and enthralling acoustic singer-songwriter Jack Savoretti.
There’s street food vendors galore and the chance to chill in the Mind, Body & Soul area, featuring meditation, ‘gong baths’, holistic treatments and wellness therapies. Alternatively exercise the grey matter, at The Auditorium of Intrigue, home to podcasts, talks and comedy, based on this year’s theme of Cambridge’s ‘Creators, innovators and explorers’.
For the full festival experience, there’s also weekend glamping available at the Field of Dreams. So much fun.
Find out more at thecambridgeclub.co
Now in its third year, Bury St Edmunds Literature Festival boasts a glittering array of bestselling authors, comedy writers and award-winning journalists, many of them with strong ties to Suffolk.
Among them is Sudbury-born print and broadcast journalist Liz Trenow, who pens historical novels, mainly set in East Anglia. Her latest work, The Secrets of the Lake, is inspired by Wormingford Mere, near Bures and the medieval legend that a dragon lived beneath its murky waters.
Former RAF electronics operator, Adrian Bleese, who spent many years flying police helicopters for Suffolk Constabulary and latterly wrote Above The Law, will be recounting fascinating tales of his time rescuing lost walkers, tracking down rural cannabis factories and disrupting illegal forest raves.
Bury born Nicola Upson, whose crime novels revolve around heroine Josephine Tey, blending fact and fiction, will present her latest masterpiece, The Dead of Winter, which includes the iconic Marlene Deitrich in its cast of characters.
The line-up also includes David Taylor, Julia Blackburn, Rachel Hore, Simon Edge, William Shore, Dr Francis Young, Mat Gaw, Simon Edge, and Jan Etherington, the multi-award winning comedy writer, who will close the word fest.
The Bury St Edmunds Literature Festival takes place at The Unitarian Meeting House on Churchgate Street, September 24-26. Find out more at burylitfest.wordpress.com
Join stand-up sensation and political satirist Mark Thomas at Cambridge Junction on a furiously funny romp through our national memory in his latest show 50 Things About Us. Combining his trademark mix of storytelling, stand-up and mind-blowing facts, Mark ponders the question ‘Who do we think we are?’.
A show about ‘money, history, songs, gongs, wigs, unicorns, guns, bungs, sods of soil and rich people’, it examines how we have come to inhabit this divided wasteland called the United Kingdom.
Freshly released from lockdown, which he spent in a flat with his ‘argumentative’ 84-year-old mum in Clapham, Mark is raring to entertain, with equal doses of mirth and mischief!
See Mark Thomas at Cambridge Junction, September 13. More at junction.co.uk
Set to headline Summer Saturday Live at Newmarket Racecourses this month, McFly’s Dougie Poynter chats to Velvet about boyband life and the challenges of making music in lockdown. . .
Having performed at Newmarket previously, both as McFly and McBusted, what do you love about the venue?
“The whole reason why we do what we do is because we love playing live shows. Newmarket is pretty different to our regular gigs; everybody is dressed in their absolute best and it's one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. It's awesome - I absolutely love it. We've played gigs at 10pm at night - in sweaty places - where people act more civilized! And then you have Newmarket where it absolutely kicks off in the middle of the day when everyone is in fancy hats and tuxedos - it’s rad!
Do you ever arrive a little bit earlier and catch any of the horseracing?
Danny does! We invite loads of friends and family down so we're usually hanging out backstage because it's in the day. As it’s not just a regular gig - loads of people that we know want to come so there's loads of socialising to do, but yeah, Danny gambles!
The show will be one of the band's first performances after lockdown. How eager are you to get back out and see your fans?
So eager. Last year was going to be a massive year of touring for us. We were three days away from flying to South America to start. You just get so pumped up in the weeks leading up to a tour, figuring out the stupid jokes that you're going to say on stage and playing old songs and things like that. We were so, so pumped. Yeah, and then lockdown happened. . .
You’ve done a lot in lockdown, releasing your album Young Dumb Thrills at the end of last year, and it went straight into the UK album charts at No 2. Was it amazing to see the album resonate so well?
Yeah, that was awesome. I'm so thankful that firstly, we'd already recorded 80–90 per cent of the album so the rest of it could be done remotely because everyone has home studios now. It was only the little things that needed finishing and it meant we had something to focus on.
How did you end up spending your lockdown days?
Video games were my saviour. And it was guilt free playing right? Because whereas before I was like, ‘ah, I can't do eight hours of playing online with my friends, that’s a bit excessive’, but when you have nothing else to do, I was like, ‘cool! Well, I'm just gonna do this until I fall asleep!’ It kept a sense of normality.
McFly are two years away from celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band. Has the past year has brought you closer together?
I think we've always been close. I can never really imagine life without those dudes being in it! One of the things I love most about McFly is our sense of humour. One of the coolest things was when lockdown happened we had an emergency Zoom meeting - our very first Zoom meeting - and for the first 45 minutes, it was just everyone joking around! I'm pretty sure we'd be like that even at the actual end of the world - we'd be laughing.
Summer Saturday Live is a daytime family event, so some original fans of yours will now be bringing their children to see you. How does it feel to see all generations coming together to enjoy your music?
It just seems that it happened overnight! About 10 years ago, I think it stopped being the same kind of audience. There were kids at the shows again and it was so weird! When we first started, it was people that were our age, and then everyone kind of grew up, and then they spawned more humans! Give us another 10 years, it'll be people's grandkids there!”
McFly play Newmarket Racecourses on Saturday, August 28. For tickets visit thejockeyclub.co.uk/live
As Jona Lewis once sang ‘You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties’ – and certainly that’s where a fair bit of the action happens in Alan Ayckbourn’s comic masterpiece of social climbing, Absurb Person Singular. The play, set in 1970s suburbia, revolves around the changing fortunes of three married couples. The story unfolds as Sidney Hopcroft – a small time tradesman - persuades his wife Jenny to throw a Christmas party, in a bid to curry favour with a bank manager and local architect. But as the night goes on, class differences and naked ambition collide, and one-by-one, the characters seek refuge in Jane’s kitchen. Over the next two years, the friends take turns hosting the Christmas festivities - and as Sidney’s luck is on the rise, cracks begin to appear in the other couples’ marriages.
A potent mix of farce and black comedy, Absurd Person Singular is being brought to life by London Classic Theatre at Theatre Royal Bury, August 10-14.
Find out more at theatreroyal.org
Scots trio Biffy Clyro have come a long way since those early days of having nowhere to stay and ‘eating food off a radiator’. They’ve cracked America, headlined a multitude of festivals and been dubbed ‘the best band in Britain’. Most notably frontman Simon Neil recalls the autumn of 2019, witnessing Rob Mathes, string arranger for Bruce Springsteen and Sia, leading a 30-piece orchestra through their then new song ‘The Champ’ at Abbey Road’s Studio Two. “You come up with an idea and then the next day you’ve got 30 people playing it in a room where The Beatles made some of their best music,” he exclaims, still breathless at the memory. “Those moments never get old. It’s like, ‘please never change!’”
With seven albums under their belt, countless awards and a clutch of chart-toppers, the alt rockers are touring the UK, promoting their number 1 album A Celebration of Endings. An upbeat offering, it features an eclectic mix of tracks, some unleashing soaring Queen-style vocal harmonies, others featuring glossy Bond-esque cinematic strings, alongside light, melodic pop songs.
A masterpiece of esoteric diversity, bask in the brilliance of this album when Biffy Clyro play Cambridge Corn Exchange on October 30.
Book tickets at cornex.co.uk
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More by this authorLouise Cummings