The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
It’s that time of year again! The leaves are brown and crisp and the dusk air has regained its perfectly magical ability to turn breath into mystical fog. It’s time to pull on a heavy coat, boots, hat, scarf and gloves and head out into Winchester city centre for the bonfire extravaganza. The Observance of 5th November Act 1605 was passed in 1606 calling for a public, annual thanksgiving for the failure of the infamous Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot, although the act was annulled in 1859. A hundred years later in 1959, Winchester Round Table decided to reignite the festivities with its inaugural bonfire and fireworks display, raising £20 for local charities. This year will mark the 56th annual event, with 100% of profits donated to local charities and good causes. Over 25,000 people attended last year and donations exceeded £30,000.
A sea of fiery torches process from the Broadway, up the High Street, along Jewry Street until they reach the North Walls recreation site, and it’s a formidable sight to behold. This year, the event takes place on Saturday 8th November. Tickets are £3 in advance and £5 on the night. Under 16 year olds are being encouraged to build a ‘Guy’, with competition winners invited to join MP Steve Brine at the Houses of Parliament for a less anarchic more civilised afternoon tea and a tour. Entries should be brought along to the River Park Leisure Centre for 3.15pm to be judged at 3.30pm, and the ‘Guys’ will take pride of place on the bonfire in the evening.
If loud bangs, crowds and chilly weather don’t appeal, head indoors for the Winchester Short Film Festival taking place 8th – 15th November at the artcafe. The festival provides a platform for Hampshire’s short filmmakers, with shortlisted films shown across nine award categories. And don’t miss the Win Guide’s hot dance tip Ballet Black who will visit the Theatre Royal on Friday 28th November. This celebrated company of classically trained black and asian dancers present a triple bill of new work with exciting ballets from gifted British choreographers including ‘Two of a Kind’ by Christopher Marney (Gothenburg Ballet, New Adventures) ‘Limbo’ by Martin Lawrance (Richard Alston Dance Company) and ‘A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream’ by Arthur Pita (Showboat, The Metamorphosis). Ballet Black were produced by the Win Guide’s very own George Sallis in 2008 in the steamy critics’ choice ‘POP8’, choreographed by Antonia Franceschi (Fame, New York City Ballet) at Giant Olive Theatre. The latter is also home of GOlive Dance & Performance Festival which made its way to Winchester in September 2014 in what will hopefully be the first of many visits.
The eagerly anticipated Winchester Wine Festival takes place this month at the Guildhall from Friday 21st November until Sunday 23rd November. Two of the planet’s 300 ‘Masters of Wine’ – otherwise known as BBC1 Saturday Morning Kitchen regulars and Winchester based husband and wife duo Peter Richards and Susie Barrie will be hosting the event and sharing their expertise with city folk and visitors. Tickets are £25 and include entrance to the festival, unlimited wine tasting samples, a free Riedel wine glass (worth £12.50) and access to exclusive discounts from participating suppliers (not bad timing in the run up to Christmas!). The event is running in support of the very worthy local charity Naomi House and Jacksplace. The Friday night VIP launch tickets are £35 and, on top of the standard perks, also include canapés and a wine festival goodie bag. Keep an eye out for special discounts on tickets, which will be running on social media, and for information on specific masterclasses. This feels like a perfect accompaniment to the gastronomic epi-centre that Winchester is fast becoming, with Autumn 2014 having seen the introduction of Hugh Fearnley Whittington’s Canteen, Rick Stein Winchester and the announcement of the Côte Brasserie, due to open in January 2015 at the top of the High Street (next door to the naked man on the horse sculpture, ‘Horse and Rider’ by Elisabeth Frink).
And incredibly, if you stroll over to Cathedral Outer Close on Friday 21st November you’ll be transported into a magical wonderland with the opening of this year’s Christmas Market and Ice Rink. Running from 6pm – 9pm, the free event will include a seven piece live jazz band ‘Funk Lab’, the fantastic Marwell Zoo Choir, a procession of paper lanterns and a pyrotechnic display. The mulled wine will be flowing alongside other festive food and drink which will be on offer throughout the season until 21st December. The markets are open 10am – 6pm Sunday – Wednesday and 10am – 7.30pm, Thursday – Saturday. The beautifully-lit wooden chalets evoke a romantic, Germanic fairytale Christmas and the open-air ice rink is a great family treat, set against the majestic backdrop of the Cathedral. Somerset House, eat your heart out!
Plenty to satisfy the senses this month, and keep us warm as the chilly weather sets in.