April 30 – Off to Cambridge…

Ali and I head off to Cambridge to meet up with my son Alex who in the third year of a Natural Sciences (nat-sci) degree at Trinity. We arrive a little later than we planned and immediately head off to the Rainbow Café to meet up with his fiancée Kirsty, her mother and brother. We have a pleasant, if slightly cramped, lunch and start to get to know the rest of Kirsty’s family who we’ve not met before.

Trumpington St from the corner of Silver St

After lunch we head off to the Orchard Tea Gardens at Granchester which is just over two miles away. The weather is fine if somewhat chilly and a bit breezy. We start the trek though the streets of Cambridge which are quite busy as there seems to be some kind of graduation event happening at one of the colleges. A “pleasant walk, a pleasant talk” to quote Lewis Caroll, but along the river rather than the sea shore.

A load of punts on the River Cam...

It seems that taking tea in The Orchard has been a tradition for Cambridge students since 1897 and was the stamping ground of the ‘Neo Pagans’ which included Virginia Wolf and the poet Rupert Brooke who concluded his poem ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’ with a reference to the orchard – Stands the church clock at ten-to-three And is there honey still for tea?

His most famous lines are;

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England

… which he wrote a few months before he died on the way to Gallipoli.

After tea we have to power walk back to the car as Ali has tickets for the Woburn Sands Band concert at The Stables in Wavendon. We seem to have quite an agricultural day with orchards and stables. The Stables is an interesting venue founded by jazz musicians Cleo Laine and Johhny Dankworth in a stable block in the grounds of their house in the village of Wavendon which is just south of Milton Keynes. The Dankworths started using the Stables as a venue when they wanted to put find a local venue for a show they were doing. John Dankworth described it in an interview he did with John Rober Brown as “with Cleo singing a variety of different styles of songs, with Laurie Holloway and myself doing instrumentals in between.”

The building was pretty much a shell when they started but a little help from the local council and with a lot of help from friends, family and local volunteers they turned the building into a small theatre and started running concerts, and later educational sessions, from 1970. By 1995 they realised that the venue was too small, and not properly equipped for the amount stuff that was happening there so they put together a plan to expand it. In 2000 the new venue was opened with a lot of financial help from Jim Marshall (i.e. of Marshall Amplifiers ilk) which is why the main auditorium (448 capacity – 398 seated and 50 standing) bears his name. One interesting fact that I came across researching this blog is that the original building was used as a factory during the war manufacturing code machines for the Bletchley Park Enigma code breakers.

I’ve only played at the venue once – and that was for a charity blues day in the old venue. I was just finding my feet in my conversion from mainly playing bass to guitar and the band was called ‘Blues on the Edge’ which was pretty appropriate – for all the wrong reasons. It seemed like a good idea at the time, doing a low profile freebie to ‘blood’ the band for its first public performance. I can’t remember much about the gig except that the keyboard player couldn’t get his organ to work (ooh er, missus!) and we spent about 15 minutes standing about on stage – which felt like forever.

Anyway back to the present, we were going to The Stables to see the annual concert of the Woburn Sands Band which both Alex and Ali used to play in. The band is an amateur brass band with up to four active groups (A thru D) and exists “to provide a focal point for brass band music in the Milton Keynes area” according to their website. The band is very inclusive and welcomes members at any level of skill providing training and even instruments. The Band is self-supporting and is registered as a charity (number 266275). The concert programme was a mix of big band, classical, jazz, pop and brass band music – excellently played with a good deal of humour and joie de vivre.

Well this is the end of my micro blog for april and I reckon I be going back to a more sparse blog, perhaps one per week, with extras when I do something interesting or just want to comment on something. It’s been an interesting exercise for me (hopefully for you too), but quite time-consuming.

See you on the flip side…

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About Brian Heywood

Brian Heywood is a free range musician who specialises in edgy roots fusion music. Previous work has received comments such as "... aggressive, top notch fiddling set off by periodic guitar explosions." - Tom Nelligan, Dirty Linen Magazine (USA), "Just when it seemed as if newer electric British roots bands were getting thinner on the ground - Very welcome and very good." - fROOTS Magazine (UK) and Steve Barnes Fairbridge Festival Artistic Director (Australia) - "... a rocking band - I was delighted with the audience response." Brian's orginal material draws on many sources from progressive, latin and blues rock of the 70's to celtic and traditional material.
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