What is it about Winchester? Over the last few weeks I’ve stumbled across outdoor Shakespeare (The Taming of the Shrew), a brass band, a man in a top hat and tails clearing up litter, face-painting, a real ale festival, a magic show in amongst myriad markets and acoustic guitarists punctuating my various journeys through the city.
I’ve been back in Winchester for two years now having been away for over a decade. The year I moved back was the Olympic year, which saw hoards of Wintonians gathering together in the cathedral grounds to picnic and cheer on our newly found sporting heroes. As autumn fell we marched together in a spectacular torchlight firework procession. Ice and rain aside, even the most hardened humbug couldn’t resist indulging in a little Yuletide fare at the now nationally- renowned Christmas market set against the romantic backdrop of Winchester Cathedral – an iconic landmark which just can’t be ignored as the centre point of this fine city.
But Winchester is more than grand or strictly seasonal events, nor can its splendours be pinned to just one admittedly stupendous edifice. We have a university, an art school, the Riverpark Leisure Centre, the Buttercross (Winchester’s 14th century commercial epicentre), theatres and museums, parks and gardens, pubs and restaurants (or two-in-one, like the Wykeham Arms, the Queen Inn or the Black Boy, among many others), hidden book-stalls, the library, the Discovery Centre – a place where one minute I can be singing ‘twinkle, twinkle little star’ with my two year-old in a room full of babies and toddlers and the next I can be admiring Grayson Perry’s ‘Walthamstow Tapestry.’ We’re surrounded by ancient woodland and lush green agriculture, feeding our famed and fortnightly farmers’ market. There’s live music, comedy nights, Anthony Gormley’s Sound II, the naked man on a horse and other sculptures, the great medieval hall on the grounds of Winchester Castle with its legendary Arthurian Round Table, King Alfred’s statue and both Jane Austen’s last home and final resting place. We’re dripping with history but can also boast of an exciting creative economy.
Like any thriving community Winchester is made up of loads of fascinatingly varied individuals united by our locality. Although there’s a lot going on in this city most of the time I’m not convinced that everybody knows about it. To redress the balance I’m gathering together a team of smart and insatiably curious people who are hoping to change all that via the brand-new Winchester Guide, or WinGuide for short. The passion of our contributors will reflect the many different voices in the city and its many colourful strands of culture and possibility.
We’ll bring you an overview of some of the best that our city has to offer with informed opinions on arts and culture, lifestyle, events, food and drink and much, much more. We aim to provide you with a lively, friendly and eclectic mix of reviews and previews, snippets and offers, must-do’s and must-sees. We also warmly welcome your contributions and invitations to be featured in the new Winchester Guide. Ideally en route you’ll discover, along with us, some of Winchester’s hidden gems and best-kept secrets.
Our first feature will be coming out next week and will be brought to you by Iuean Rees, one of our many contributors. Watch this space and follow us @Win_Guide.