Category Archives: Feature

The Winchester Science Festival

Matt Denton's - Mantis Robot
Matt Denton’s – Mantis Robot

Fancy seeing Winchester engineer Matt Denton‘s two tonne Turbo Diesel-powered Mantis robot – the biggest all-terrain operational hexapod robot in the world? Or how about deconstructing the Hat Fair with Dr Ken Farquhar as he explores the science behind juggling, circus and the like. Perhaps you’d like to launch into some rocket science with Lucy Rogers?  If you haven’t already guessed, Winchester is readying itself for a scintillating science-tastic take-over at the Discovery Centre 25-27 July, with the return of the annual Winchester Science Festival, launched in 2012. The festival will feature science, music, comedy and hands-on exhibits all weekend with plenty on offer for the whole family.

The Ugly Animal Preservation Society
The Ugly Animal Preservation Society

Friday’s programme is geared towards younger science fans. Terry Harvey-Chadwick’s Fire Show at 10am will feature some explosive demonstrations with his brand of ‘fun science’. At 11am, step-aside Superman, Channel 4’s Simon Watt will be taking a closer look at genetic mutations and revealing that we might be closer to the X-men than we thought with his talk ‘Mutants. What Are they Like?’. Winchester Science Centre’s Alex Boxley will be talking us through the universe at 3pm and at 5pm award winning Dr Mini Saaj will be exploring Nature-Inspired Robots For Science & Medicine. Adults can pop along in the evening to Frogs and Friends, a comedic talk with The Ugly Animal Preservation Society’s professor of comedy, Simon Watt. And its worth noting that all the festival evening events are for 15s and over.

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Saturday’s programme starts at 10am when Dr Radu Sporea assisted by Andrew Pye will lead us in a participatory look at modern photography with hints and tips for practitioners. At midday, Dr Jock McOrist will be making the elusive String Theory accessible for everyone. After lunch there are two opportunities to listen to the extraordinary astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. To round off the day, Bright Club Guildford will present an evening of comedy, music, art, research, science and performance. On Sunday, budding Bear Grylls‘ can take a journey into the extremities with Prof Mike Tipton exploring physiological and psychological responses to harsh environments. Sally Le Page will be leading us on a lighthearted romp through the bizarre world of animal sex lives with Secrets of Sex. The festival reaches its climax with Being 747, where science meets music in a pop rock group inspired by the work of David Attenborough.

The Mobile Planetarium
The Mobile Planetarium

Various exhibits will be on offer on-site throughout the festival, including the Mini Professors, free group science sessions for pre-schoolers with songs and experiments. The Soton Astrodome c/o the University of Southampton will be running a mobile planetarium hourly all weekend from 11.15am. Shows are free but advanced booking is advised. The National Oceanography Centre will be bringing along the PufferSphere, a glowing 2m digital globe, which shows complex climate and weather systems.

Ticketed talks are available online with SEE Tickets  where you can book a full festival pass, daytime or evening passes or just for specific talks. Children accompanied by an adult go free all weekend and there are some free events in the programme. For full programme listings which may vary visit winchesterscifest.org.

Winchester Science Festival
Winchester Science Festival

Winchester Science Festival is run by the not-for-profit Winchester 
Science Foundation who aim to champion and celebrate science with the public, raise the profile of women in science, promote science education and science communication and raise the awareness of Hampshire science.

In The Spotlight: James Rose

Our editor Donald Hutera meets a performer, all-round creative being and, until recently, long-time Winchester resident with plenty of get-up-and-go.

Under The Vaulted Sky Photography by Hudo Glendinning
Under The Vaulted Sky Photography by Hugo Glendinning

James Rose is a most determined young man. Earlier this year the 29 year-old was hugely glad to be cast in Rosemary Lee’s latest outdoor venture, Under the Vaulted Sky. The piece is in essence, he says, a celebration of the Cathedral of Trees (a park based on the layout of Norwich Cathedral) and its immediate environment. Lee herself is a rightly esteemed British choreographer with an acute sensitivity for people and places, and especially how they connect and resonate.

The trouble is that Under the Vaulted Sky is being staged outdoors as one of the lynchpin productions of this year’s edition of IF: Milton Keynes International Festival. And, until about two weeks ago, James was for 18 years a resident of Winchester. It is, in total, a five-hour daily commute between the two cities. What made it even more problematic or, at the very least, expensive is that James has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair and, as a result, requires an assistant to travel with him.

The total cost for James to reach Milton Keynes on the train (26 return journeys at £120 each) was £3,120, with an additional £3,900 to cover the daily £150 needed by his assistant. Being an enterprising fellow, James put out a call for help via Wefund. It worked, too, netting him from between £5 to £1,000 in donations from 52 different people for a grand total of £3,005. In the online video James evinced a cheeky charm. ‘So give me your money,’ he said, ‘…and a kiss.’

James is plainly no slouch when it comes to either fiscal smarts or cultural pursuits. He’s been a member of a youth theatre group in nearby Eastleigh, made and edited films (one of which was broadcast on the community channel in 2011) and performed in three out of four Olympic ceremonies in 2012. And he’s got plans. ‘I’m currently writing a symphony,’ says James, adding, ‘I conduct music using my head. I’ve always been interested in dance, theatre and performance. I listened to a lot if Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals when I was younger, automatically imagining how they looked onstage. Even now, whenever I listen to music, I see the staging and design of the piece being performed. My intention for both my symphony and the musical I’m writing is to incorporate multiple art forms and media to make it accessible to non-traditional audiences.’ Performance, he feels, ‘is a powerful tool to convey different ideas and emotions which some of society may have lost touch with.’

James is currently interviewing with the BBC and a number of theatre companies regarding full-time employment. Although he no longer lives in Winchester, he’s quick to sing the praises of its promotion of the arts in many forms. The Theatre Royal has supported me in the past,’ he explains, ‘with an R&D project working around inclusive dance. The city has a good reputation for culture, being renowned on the street performance circuit as a receptive place to perform.’

James met Rosemary Lee, or Rosie as she’s commonly known, at a seminar in Eastleigh. He was impressed, enough so to jump at the chance to become involved with Under the Vaulted Sky when he heard about it. ‘The taster session for the project was fantastic,’ he enthuses. ‘Like the rest of her team, Rosie is a people person and this really shone through.’ James will be featured in two of the piece’s sections, one of which entails other cast members creating a dance around him. ‘I won’t say any more!’ says James, meaning you’ll just have to travel to Milton Keynes to see it and him. Performances are July 18-20.

A romp on the lawn

Fortified by Bucks Fizz, Rebecca JS Nice braves the elements for Chesil’s Musketeers.

The Three Musketeers
The Three Musketeers

Celebrating its 150th anniversary, The Chesil Theatre presents The Three Musketeers. This open-air production runs from 8-12 July in the private garden of the new Bishop’s Palace, in the grounds of Wolvesey Castle. Willis Hall’s adaption of Alexandre Dumas’ novel is directed by the Chesil’s Martin Humphrey with a cast of twenty-eight.

The gardens of the Bishop’s Palace are transformed by a hungry audience, eager to dine al fresco in this privileged spot. Immaculately kept, and surrounded by flower borders, the trim lawn spreads the breadth of the Bishop’s stately home. Gates open ninety minutes before the performance, encouraging picnickers to enjoy this secret garden normally hidden from public view behind large medieval walls. The location gives this play wide appeal, the joy of the surroundings shared by cast, crew and audience members alike.

“The show is a bonus for us,” or so the couple next to me claim as they ply me with Bucks Fizz. Settled on blankets at the side of the garden, they add, “We just came for the picnic!”  As swallows dart across the sky and the evening draws in, it’s easy to forget that there is indeed a play to watch. The audience forms orderly rows with their garden chairs, champagne glasses in hand as King Louis XIII sits idly on his throne playing cup and ball. The rest of the cast enter onto a hessian-covered stage from behind the Bishop’s bushes, and Humphrey’s well-rehearsed production goes by without a hitch. Playing the young D’Artangnan, Michel Perlmutter is commendable but tense in his use of voice and physicality in stark contrast to the mature musketeers. Occasionally breaking the fourth wall might’ve allowed the cast to draw comic value from this and other performance hurdles.

Sword fighting brings a breath of life into the play, particularly when it spreads out to the garden and involves groups of ten or more combatants. The action is well-choreographed even if the actors play it safe. The physicality of men who fight to survive, and the rowdy camaraderie, that goes with that, isn’t quite reached. Perhaps the old Bishop’s Palace – the Wolvesey Castle ruins, would’ve provided a setting better suited to the boisterous, rough-and-tumble atmosphere the performance needs.

After a downpour in the interval the play resumed, the cast completely unfazed. Their attitude was refreshing, particularly after a rainy Hat Fair where performances were continually being rescheduled or cancelled. In true English fashion the Musketeers battled and bantered to a sea of tiny faces peeping out from raincoats and hoods. Tez Cook’s Porthos and Alec Walters’s Aramis kept the whole enterprise on a roll. Various older actors appeared only for moments; ironically, some of these minor roles held more presence than the main cast conveyed. Chesil’s Three Musketeers runs for two and half hours including a twenty minute interval, so it’s worth bringing a portable chair. Some judicious cutting wouldn’t go amiss, but a delightful evening nonetheless.

Running 8-12 July.  For more information visit the Chesil Theatre website.

Hat Fair 14 round-up: Emphasis on the fair

Hat Fair - Abbey Gardens
Hat Fair – Abbey Gardens

I lost my Hat Fair virginity this past weekend, selectively dipping in and out of the 40th anniversary edition of this outdoor theatre festival. Was it a satisfying experience? Not entirely, at least not if judged by the sometimes so-so artistic content of the five and a half (to be explained) shows I took in over the course of three days. A mere handful of performances is, I know, a drop in the bucket, given that there were four dozen or so items on offer. Still, that’s what I could manage. And in the bigger picture I’m grateful to the Hat Fair. Setting questions of aesthetics aside, for me the event was a fine excuse to get to know better not only several companies and/or artists but also Winchester itself. Below are my chronologically organised responses….

Tiata Fahodzi - The Legend of Hamba
Tiata Fahodzi – The Legend of Hamba

‘The Legend of Hamba’ by Tiata Fahodzi (translation: ‘theatre of the emancipated’) Location: Chapter House Lawn

Co-commissioned by Without Walls, Brighton Festival, GDIF, Hat Fair and Watford Palace Theatre, this Afro-British production’s strongest feature was its costumes and makeup. The four performers (three men and one woman) each wore boldly colourful garb, gabbling away in Ndbele (one of Zimbabwe’s three official languages) as they charged into a setting anchored by yellow plastic barrels and crates. What ensued was a somewhat dramaturgically muddy morality tale of greed, war and religion, but put across with no little brio. The physical spectacle they provided didn’t need refining but rather, perhaps, greater clarification.

The Lift - Wet Picnic
The Lift – Wet Picnic

‘The Lift’ by Wet Picnic  Location: Abbey Gardens

Now eight years young, Winchester’s own Wet Picnic was one of the companies presented under the umbrella of Hat Fair’s Anglo-French partnership with the Zepa 2 project. How glad I am to have seen it. The sole set-piece – a handsome, quasi-quaint lift on wheels – was immediately entrancing as it was propelled across the paths and grass of Abbey Gardens. The show’s premise is interactivity, with individual audience members invited by a cast of three bonkers bellboys to each pick one of nine floors at which this magical lift might stop. The actors were wonderfully good manipulators, inducing the assembled audience’s participation in such shenanigans as synchronised dancing, a barking international spy romp and a soppily kitsch romance. The culmination was a wedding celebration. I grinned my way throughout ‘The Lift,’ delighted by its perfectly contained manic wit (including verbal) and air of silly-smart invention.

Clunk
Clunk – Friary Gardens

‘Clunk’ by Dante or Die/Peut-Etre Theatre Location: Friary Gardens

Commissioned by Small Wonders, ‘Clunk’ is a wee charmer of a piece designed to tap into the rhythmic and musical impulses of under-5s. It took awhile for comfort levels to be established in the nicely secluded but, in truth, slightly off-the-beaten-track Friary Gardens. With gentle diligence the brightly orange-clad cast of three (two women and one man) worked to elicit the engagement of a small gathering of children and adults, all sitting on tiny red plastic benches adorned with spongy faux instruments. Although the musician-performers’ intentions and methods may not have initially been clear enough, their efforts gradually yielded results. By the end we were all joining in the creation of a song accompanied by movement. Sweet and, ultimately, winning.

‘The House’ by Le Collectif G. Bistaki Cooperatzia Location: The Broadway

Part of the Hat Fair’s festival-within-a festival La Fête Franglais, G. Bistaki is a handful of juggler-dancers launched in 2006. Wearing long coats, the five performers attracted quite a numerically substantial crowd, too, with a show utilising handbags and especially roof tiles with precision-style risk and humour (e.g., when attached to leads the tiles functioned like dogs taken on walkies). Apparently ‘The House’ went on for an hour but, alas, I simply couldn’t stay for more than half of it because I wanted to catch something else (see below) across town. Repeatedly the cast allowed the energy they conjured to drop, with sequences set to music followed by spots of relative inactivity sans a soundtrack or much discernible drive. My overriding impression of the first 30 minutes of ‘The House’ was of a highly adept company that may have erred on the side of self-indulgence.

Nuno Silva - The Soul of Fado
Nuno Silva – The Soul of Fado

‘Soul of Fado’ by Nuno Silva Location: The Great Hall

I was looking forward to Nuno Silva’s outdoor complement ( another Without Walls commission) to his recent full-length dance-theatre production ‘A Darker Shade of Fado.’ As a bare-chested and seductively manipulative demon/god with a vocal gift, Silva didn’t disappoint. This experienced, muscularly graceful Portuguese-born performer has an immensely powerful stage presence. I was, however, less sure about the work itself. Silva, with black markings on his face, played a mysteriously mythical figure whose literal and would-be fiery encounters with a couple (a bearded musician-dancer transformed into an only semi-convincing bull, and a singing-dancing woman) eventually led to their escape via a metal boat. Flames were a big feature of this late-night show – in pots, pool-like tracings on the playing area’s paving stones, and at one juncture snaking up on the boat itself. Less effective was storytelling which failed to make me either believe in or care much about what I was witnessing. Some of the movement was simply too uncommunicatively posey, while the boat (steered by a bulky technician in a hoodie and black eyemask) was a pretty clunky device. I was also left unenlightened about fado, the mournfully beautiful Portuguese national song-style from which Silva was supposedly drawing inspiration (and which he vocalises beautifully; more would’ve been welcome). A sizable chunk of credit for the show’s aural atmosphere belongs to composer and musician Sabio Janiak, stationed behind the other performers. But despite several potentially captivating elements I was unable to truly sense this show’s soul.

Marc Brew & Company
Marc Brew & Company

‘[i]land’ by Marc Brew Company Location: The Great Hall

Like Nuno Silva, Marc Brew has a core background in dance. Devised by the choreographer-director with his cast, this three-hander (also partly instigated by Without Walls) can boast of an attractive island setting composed mainly of sand. The island might also be construed as a boat, given the mast jutting up out of the centre and the web-like weave of rope attached to it. What we have here is a triangular relationship between a ginger-bearded man (Rob Heaslip, sturdy); a second fellow (Brew himself, gaunt) who materialises, strikingly, from the sandy set’s secret centre; and a woman (Rebecca Evans, winsome) who could be the red-lipped embodiment of the sea. They appear one by one, interact a bit in a vaguely, playfully dance-y manner, and then construct together a wheelchair with sails in which Brew drifts away. Evans slips away, too, leaving Heaslip once again on his lonesome… There are themes at work in ‘[i]land’ – loneliness, solidarity, evanescence and so on – that for me didn’t quite add up in terms of metaphorically telling, poetically resonant impact. As with Silva’s show I couldn’t emotionally claim the experience. That’s not to negate what was nevertheless a pleasant and not unmemorable attempt to convey something profound; I just didn’t feel it. Still, thumbs up to the cast, the ingenuity of designer Will Holt and Scott Patterson’s unobtrusively engaging recorded score in a soft-rock style.

So, to sum up my first Hat Fair: one big and one considerably smaller hit, a half-baked larger-scaled diversion plus a trio of mixed-response but not negligible misses.

By Donald Hutera, arts journalist and editor of the Win_Guide.

Hat Fair Highlights

Hat Fair
Hat Fair

Winchester welcomes the UK’s longest running street arts festival this weekend from Fri 4 to Sun 6 July with its 45 companies, 12 commissions, 6 commissioning partnerships and 4 UK premieres. Hat Fair has been providing some of the best in street theatre for 40 years, attracting 30,000 visitors each year.

“One of the great pleasures of Street Arts festivals is that they make you slow down and put the wonder back into everyday life. Wherever you were in Winchester at this year’s Hat Fair, you could hear the distant sound of laughter – as if the whole town was smiling together.” (Lyn Gardner, The Guardian)

Hat Fair app
Hat Fair app

It’s a completely free event, so you can just turn up and follow the Hat Fair ‘app’ on your smart phone or wander from venue to venue with a festival programme. Events are happening at The Theatre Royal, Discovery Centre, Chapter House Lawn, Cathedral Outer Close, Cathedral Inner Close, Abbey Gardens, The Broadway, Oram’s Arbour, Friary Gardens, The Great Hall, in the High Street (at locations 1&2), Parchment Street and The Square. Map.

Here are some of the Festival highlights from the team:

Friday 4 July

Gobbledegook Theatre
Gobbledegook Theatre

Start early with Gobbledegook’s pre-school friendly performances at 10 & 10.30am at the Theatre Royal and Discovery Centre Small Wonders area. Garden Party features the ‘Grass Ladies’ clad in dresses made from artificial turf and offering a mix of music, nature and fun with a beautiful a cappella concert. Meanwhile, Gobbledegook’s Musikshed will have the under 5’s boogie-ing down. Small Wonders is a national initiative supported by the Arts Council and run by Bristol based Alchemy Productions creating outdoor work for the under-fives and their families.

The Museum of Everyday Life transforms Cathedral Outer Close (the cat grounds) at 12pm. Presented by French street theatre artists Les Cubiténistes, this event attempts to make the ordinary extraordinary. How? By using a live photographic studio to create an instant rolling exhibition of portraits and paintings of the public. Not to be missed for those curious about art being reimagined.

Wet Picnic - The Lift
Wet Picnic – The Lift

Meanwhile at 2, 4 & 6pm in Abbey Gardens the home-grown Winchester company Wet Picnic return with The Lift, a roving theatrical experience that envelops its audience, welcoming them into a world of captured moments. Participants can choose their own participatory adventure with the push of a button.

The festivities continue on Friday evening at 7pm with Tit for Tat at Abbey Gardens. Ryman & Lou invite us into their portable living room to share their passion for tea. Ever-prepared for a strong brew, they believe it only tastes good if you almost die making it. A silent comedy full of acrobatics, juggling and farce, this is not one to be missed. G. Bistaki will lure us in with poetic dance at the Broadway at 9.30pm. A cast of darkly-clad men transform into acrobats, culminating in a shattering finale; a perfect finish to the first day of the Festival.

Saturday 5 July

Day of Dance
Day of Dance

Saturday is when the festival truly comes into its own with events starting at 10am. The Great Hall is hosting a ‘Day of Dance’, with a mix of lively workshops and showcases taking place all day. Rebecca JS Nice featured some of the performances on offer in her recent blog, The Great Hall and The Hat Fair.  Audiences are invited to come along and learn some new steps, from salsa to hip hop. At 12pm on Parchment Street the visual artist Jane Watson invites you to leave your body print on the pavement, literally sharing your physicality. If you head on over to Friary Gardens in Culver Road at 12:30pm you’ll catch Dante or Die / Peut-Etre performing Clunk. Three talented musicians interpret magical stories using Balkan music, song, and visual imagery to create both a concert and theatre piece perfect for early-years audiences and their families.

Tiata Fahodzi - The Legend of Hamba
Tiata Fahodzi – The Legend of Hamba

After a spot of lunch, stroll over to High Street 1 to catch Amazing Mr Fish at 1pm or 4pm as he rides a 10ft unicycle whilst balancing a goldfish on his left foot; a veritable treat of circus, comedy and mime. At 1:30 pm on The Chapter House lawn Tiata Fahodzi, one of Britain’s leading African theatre companies, present The Legend of Hamba. An African Everyman play in a contemporary setting, Tiata Fahodzi uses Zimbabwe’s language of Ndebele to create a spirit of progress, vitality and forward thinking.

4:30pm at the Theatre Royal, Orkater presents Via Berlin, a Dutch musical theatre troupe with A Mouth Full of Sand, the journey of a Dutch woman seeking her lost husband in Afghanistan. The production uses a blend of classical and new music for violin, cello, percussion, sand, plastic and song.

Nuno Silva, The Soul of Fado
Nuno Silva – The Soul of Fado

At 10.30pm, Nuno Silva will be filling the atmospheric Great Hall with The Soul of Fado. With a career encompassing contemporary dance, West End musicals and opera, Silva has gone back to his Portuguese roots to re-create the steamy atmosphere of Lisbon’s Old Quarter. Nuno Silva featured in the inaugural GOlive Dance and Performance Festival, produced by Giant Olive Theatre Company and curated by our very own Donald Hutera, so he’s a hot tip from the WinGuide team.

 

Sunday 6 July

Amelia Cadwallader
Amelia Cadwallader

On Sunday the festival returns to its traditional home at Oram’s Arbour near the train station. At 1pm & 4pm Jeremy Farquar presents The Fool, the Cow and the Art of Corruption, described by the Sydney Morning Herald as “Challenging, inspirational theatre”. The People’s Pitch will showcase up-and-coming street performance acts, or ‘Hatters’, from 1pm. Amelia Cadwallader is appearing at 2pm and 5pm with her celebrated Maple Staplegun who’ll be armed with hula-hoops, office stationery and traditional circus ring techniques.

Then it’s a short walk down the hill to the Great Hall to catch the festival finale with Marc Brew & Co’s (i)land set on a six-ton pile of sand at 6pm and Nuno Silva’s The Soul of Fado at 8pm, hint-hint-hint.

Please note: the artists featured above will be performing at other times during the festival. For full festival listings visit the Hat Fair website.

Hat Fair weekend is on 4th to 6th of July this year. We’ll be tweeting across Winchester, offering you the best of the festival. Follow us and keep updated at @Win_guide

The Great Hall and the Hat Fair

The Great Hall, Winchester Castle
The Great Hall, Winchester Castle

Once the ancient capital city of Wessex, Winchester’s castle is now barely visible except for the West Gate, Great Hall and some ruins. Henry III built the Great Hall in 1222 as part of a much larger Motte and Bailey castle complex that’s hard to imagine, especially when standing on its original site which is now largely dwarfed by the county council offices and imposing law courts. King Henry renovated the existing castle, adding fireplaces, latrines, painted walls and comfortable royal chambers and thus living in the lap of medieval luxury of which the Great Hall was the epicentre.

It was the place to be. Here kings made decisions, troubadours sang, jesters joked, retinues ate, visitors were received, criminals condemned and marriages celebrated. (And no King Arthur did not sit at his round table here; hanging above your head on the West wall is a plain 13th century table painted by Henry VIII as Tudor propaganda!) Entering the hall on a hot summery day, the environment felt somewhat dark, cold and oppressive.  But, as my eyes adjusted to the light and a bunch of chattering tourists burst through the new 19th century entrance, the Hall came alive. The acoustics bouncing off the stone surfaces and the general hubbub gave what can only be a hint of the buzz that would’ve permeated it in medieval times in the 13th century.

Queen Isabella (the She-wolf of France)
Queen Isabella (the She-wolf of France)

During the 14th and 15th centuries the Hall’s function as a legal and administrative centre grew and dominated for a further 700 years – that is, until the courts were moved to the foreboding courthouse adjoining the East wall in 1974. Countless figures were condemned at these courts, and public executions saw the heads of heretics displayed before the castle gates. Spare a little thought as you wander below the West Gate towards the Great Hall for those who met a grisly death there. According to historian Martin Biddle, the earl of Kent in 1330 stood all day in front of the castle gate waiting for someone to be found to execute him for planning a rebellion against Queen Isabella (Edward II’s wife, sometimes described as the She-wolf of France) and her lover, Roger Mortimer.

Although the Hall has been dominated by courts and justice for over seven centuries, I want to draw your attention back to its everyday use in the medieval era for feasting and entertainment. Your next visit might be as part of Winchester Hat Fair, and as you laugh and applaud, remember your predecessors who may have done just that in this space hundreds of years ago.

Marc Brew & Co
Marc Brew & Co (i)land

From Friday 4th to Sunday 6th July the Great Hall becomes a centre of activity once again in a celebration of dance, theatre and street performance. Bouchée à la reine by Push Plus are a company of six clowns who’ll enact a high-class dinner party in order to comment on society’s shortcomings – a form of class mockery that’s changed little since medieval times. For Grime Ramshacklicious will construct a strange fortification directly above castle ruins hidden beneath the cobbled courtyard. They say an Englishman’s home is his castle, and this wooden structure balanced above a burger van will certainly bring the grimy realities of everyday working life to such majestic surroundings. Marc Brew Company will transform the area into a mirage as three dancers bask, play and dream of escaping their sandy (i)land,  a place stranded far from the ocean and surrounded by stone. Whether inside, beneath the Hall’s expansive arches, or in the courtyard surrounded by cool grey architecture, this strange and eerie scene is bound to unnerve and entice.

Nuno Silva, The Soul of Fado
Nuno Silva – The Soul of Fado

Nuna Silva’s Soul of Fado promises to close the Hat Fair with a sensual and fiery showstopper (as featured in Giant Olive’s inaugural GOlive Dance and Performance Festival curated by Donald Hutera and a hot hat fair tip from the WinGuide.) Combining contemporary dance with traditional Portuguese song on a stage marked by flaming gondolas, it will certainly look the part as the night closes in. Silva’s fado, a form of music expressing loss and melancholy, suggests a dramatic and powerful scene might confront the nighttime spectator. If it’s anything like last year’s grand finale, Bad Taste Company’s Faust, then Soul of Fado will enliven the senses with passion and highly physical choreography. It draws the Hat Fair to a close at the most important centre of the old capital city, The Great Hall of Winchester.

by Rebecca JS Nice

Writer, dance critic, history geek and Winchy lover. Rebecca is a mature student at The University of Winchester studying Choreography and Dance combined with History. After teaching for eight years, she now writes for various publications and blogs about dance and all things arty-farty, whilst drinking copious amounts of tea and day dreaming in Winchester’s many café windows. @rebeccajsnice

Why Wine in Winchester?

George Sallis hunts for wine, meets David Nicholson and they discuss why it’s so important to do what you love…

The Black Bottle
The Black Bottle

Father’s day in Winchester; having unsuccessfully spent all morning and the better part of the afternoon attempting to convince my 3 year old daughter of the virtues and magnitude of this momentous occasion, I eventually threw in the towel, devoured a large roast and took solace in a light bottle of Fleurie that seemed to evaporate extremely quickly. Worse still, my imaginary wine cellar was now barren, my taste buds were indicating strongly that I needed more and my rapidly expanding waistline was begging me to get out and about. I also needed to decide on the theme of my inaugural piece for the all-new Winchester Guide. My day and night revolves around an all-encompassing theatre in London, so I was not keen for it to be theatrically-based. A quick call to our newly appointed editor to ask his opinion resulted in a simple assignment: ‘Write about something you love in Winchester,’ to which I responded, ‘Excellent. I love wine.’  Surely, I mused, there must be a plentiful supply in this city even relatively late on a Sunday afternoon.

If I wanted to take the easy option and replenish the aforementioned cellar, I might be lucky enough to catch Majestic Wines, the wholesalers on Andover Road. This would require a purchase of at least 6 bottles though, which I was doubtful I could justify to myself or more importantly to the ladies of the house, even on father’s day.

Kingsgate Wines and Provisions, opposite the Wykeham was closed, I had also just missed Wine Utopia, a new merchant on St Thomas St that I was particularly interested in as my previous visit had been when they had only just opened in August last year.

The Black Bottle
The Black Bottle

As I walked along the river and up past the Bishop on the Bridge it hit me like a thunderbolt: The Black Bottle on Bridge St would definitely be open. Increasing my pace, I made a bee-line for it.

It’s a lovely, characterful old building, which dates back to the 1800’s and used to be a greengrocers and a women’s refuge. A keen member of staff asked how she could be of assistance. I informed her that it was imperative that I get a glass of wine as quickly as possible. ‘We have 32 wines that you can sample and a choice of 140 wines by the bottle’. This completely stumped me, so much choice, I didn’t know what I wanted now, ‘surprise me I said’. As the lady poured me a glass of Morgon 2011, I introduced myself as one of the contributors of the all new @Win_Guide and asked if it was possible to interview someone. She told me that the person I really should be speaking to was a chap called David Nicholson and if I was lucky I might be able to find him at The Black Boy. A quick meander around the premises glass in hand not only refreshed my taste buds but also my memory. The building is a mini-maze of rustic charm, special wine sampling machines are on-hand in each room where you can buy credits on a card and sample away small, medium or large measures to you heart’s content. This needed closer inspection and definitely more time, for now though it was time to head to The Black Boy.

A quick walk up Chesil Street, brought me to The Black Rat, the Michelin star restaurant on the corner of Wharf Hill where the Grade 2 listed Black Boy resides. I caught a glimpse of an advanced development on the opposite side of the road and made a mental note to find out more about it. I asked the bar tender in The Black Boy if David was available for a quick interview, took a seat in the eclectic surroundings of the garden and then as if by magic David appeared.

Apologising for the impromptu nature of my visit, I was met with a warm handshake. As we were exchanging pleasantries I was taken aback by his deep authoritative voice and presence, the theatre part of my brain kicked in and I wondered what kind of role I would cast for him in a play, a young Orson Wells came to mind. David and his team have been running The Black Boy since 1995. The Black Rat followed on some 10 years later, after which came The Black Bottle in 2011.

Why Wine? I asked him, ‘because I want to dispel the myth behind it, wine should be for everyone and I love it’ he responded. ‘The Black Bottle is all about the experience’ he went on to say, ‘we are not wine merchants, I want it to be a place where people can come, relax and sample an array of good quality well-priced wines, in a lovely old building. They can buy a bottle of their favourite with a 10% discount and take it home.’ Neat idea I thought and what a great ethos. ‘The three key principles behind a good wine are the maker, the region and the vintage, as well as offering a range across the spectrum’.

We briefly discussed the wine choices at The Black Rat, a restaurant favourited by a host of high profile people, some of whom I know well from the theatrical world and speak very highly of it indeed. I made another mental note to eat there soon. He informed me that if it’s a weekend, they are booking three weeks in advance. This reminded me of my other mental note, ‘do you know anything about the development at the top of the hill’ I asked, ‘that’s going to be a B&B with ten en-suite double rooms, we are going to call it The Black Hole and its opening in August.’

The Black Boy, The Black Rat, The Black Bottle and now The Black Hole, I resisted the overwhelming number of gags that immediately sprung to mind as to what would be his next venture as I was certain he had probably heard them all.

10 year old Madeira wine
Justino’s Madeira Boal 10 Years Old

Thanking David, I headed back down to The Black Bottle for one last look around. Kevin Conac the knowledgable French manager was there to greet me this time and presented me with a wonderful glass of old Madeira wine. ‘It’s currently Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir month, we change the wines every month as we like to feature something new from across the various regions and climates around the world, whether it be South African or Californian, French or Australian, all of which can be complemented with a cheese of the month (supplied by the Cheese Stall in the high street market) and a selection of cold meats. We also had our first Prosseco evening for ladies on Saturday whilst the football was on, it went down very well indeed’

We finished our conversation as I polished off the ten-year old Madeira. What a lovely father’s day I thought to myself, certainly no need to whine in Winchester and isn’t it just wonderful to do what you love.

George Sallis is Artistic Director of The Lion & Unicorn Theatre in London, Giant Olive Theatre Company and the GOlive Dance and Performance Festival. @GeorgeSallis 

A Nice Little Project

Rebecca JS Nice previews choreographer Debbie Lee-Anthony’s piece A Nice Little Project.

Debbie Lee-Anthony
Debbie Lee-Anthony

A warm welcome to The Winchester Guide! I’ll be sharing my perspectives from high up on the hill at the university and down to the depths of the cathedral crypt. En route I hope to accomplish two things: uncover historical secrets about medieval Winchester, and discover quirky performances, events and local arts practitioners who are beavering away unnoticed.

The University of Winchester is my second home. Please allow me to introduce it to you as an inviting public space, rather than as a place for rowdy students who keep the city up all night. The Uni hosts an array of seminars (on subjects ranging from medieval history to criminology) and organises international writing conferences. Professional dance companies perform in its studio theatre. The Chapel on campus in particular is an unusual venue; often used for professional theatre, it should be identified with far more than its religious functions. The Chapel was designed by local architects Colson and Son of Jewry Street. It was consecrated in 1881 by The Bishop of Winchester who, quite fittingly, used the text from St Matthew: “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid”. It’s a motto that we at The Winchester Guide can certainly claim as ours.

Make Every Word Hurt #1 is a night of cabaret-style entertainment to be unveiled in the Chapel on June 26, 6.30-8.30pm, and theoretically ideal for anyone who fancies a glass of wine and some laugh-filled live performance. With any free small-scale event, however, it’s often a punt as to the quality of experience you’ll have. Nevertheless in A Nice Little Project the choreographer/performer Debbie Lee-Anthony promises to question and provoke audiences about a subject anyone can relate to: being nice (or not, as the case may be). She’ll use speech, autobiography, audience contributions and dance to investigate this appealing theme. The intimate setting of the Chapel might well be the perfect environment for Lee-Anthony and her audience to engage in a dialogue, no doubt helped along by a little libation and the light-hearted nature of the work itself.

Debbie animatedly discusses the future of the arts in Winchester, a topic close to her heart as she also lectures at the university. “There are graduates based in the city now,’ she enthuses, “working with Wessex Dance Academy, Integr8 Dance and other project-based performance work who need to be encouraged, nurtured and offered opportunities.” She notes the popularity of festivals such as Winchester Hat Fair, stating that “performances are here all year round but people don’t know about them or aren’t encouraged to come out for them”. This is a gap The Winchester Guide intends to fill, informing our readers of as many outstanding arts events – whether one-off or ongoing, small or large-scale – as we possibly can.

But back to Lee-Anthony. She’s on a high right now, having just won the Senate Learning and Teaching Award 2014 for knowledge exchange at The University of Winchester. In a few weeks she will be attending the Impulse Tanz 2014 in Vienna, studying with Forsythe company dancer Nicole Peisl and ex-Limon dancer Risa Steinbuerg. Lee-Anthony’s passion and drive for performance, and her uncanny ability to connect individually with audience members, makes now a prime time to catch her in performance.

Billed as a pop-up-poetry event by Creative Connections at The University of Winchester, Make Every Word Hurt #1 will be followed the next day, June 27, by a free symposium called Make Every Word Hurt #2 (location: on campus at the Stripe Lecture Theatre, 10am-3pm). Various papers will be given by writers, academics and poets, lunch and coffee will be provided. For more information please email Vanessa.Harbour@winchester.ac.uk

Writer, dance critic, history geek and Winchy lover. Rebecca is a mature student at The University of Winchester studying Choreography and Dance combined with History. After teaching for eight years, she now writes for various publications and blogs about dance and all things arty-farty, whilst drinking copious amounts of tea and day dreaming in Winchester’s many café windows. @rebeccajsnice

Winchester loves Art in June

Ieuan Rees, Creative Director of WinchesterloveArts, introduces the best this month has to offer.

One of the things I love about Winchester in June is that there are so many theatre and music events going on. Here are the ones which stand out for me. You might enjoy them, too!

Integr8 Dance Off 2014
Integr8 Dance Off 2014

The Theatre Royal is showing INTEGR8 Dance OFF 2014. Returning for a 3rd year in this showcase performance talented young dancers from the Winchester area come together for one weekend (20-22 June) that covers a dazzlingly diverse range of movement styles. A collaboration of local schools, dance companies and young people, INTEGR8 Dance OFF 2014 gives these potential future stars a platform that allows them to shine.

The Theatre Royal is also catering for opera fans this month with Donizetti’s
 L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love) 
in a modernised English version by Thomas Eccleshare (11-12 June). Winchester’s young theatre-goers will be puddle-jumping pleased as punch with the new production of Peppa Pig’s Big Splash (18 -19 June 10am, 1pm, 4pm)

Winchester Guitar Festival
Winchester Guitar Festival

The Winchester Guitar Festival is returning again this year (13-14 June). Internationally renowned guitarist Gaëlle Solal is providing one of two celebrity recitals at St Lawrence Church. Gaëlle reworks classical pieces such as the stunning Bach’s prelude. She’s also leading an afternoon master class at Winchester Discovery Centre on Saturday, 14 June – a great opportunity for experimental guitarists! The festival this year has invited students from Peter Symonds College to provide lunch-time youth recitals, with a young artist’s platform taking place at St Lawrence Church on 13 June at 1pm.

The Link Gallery at The University of Winchester is exhibiting Angela Williams: An Eye for Fashion – Norman Parkinson Photographs British Fashion Designers 1950-1964. This careful selection of silver gelatin prints presents an excellent visual history of designers who transformed the perceptions, outlook and creativity of fashion.  It is a revealing look into the innovative techniques of the era, some of which are now a gold standard in fashion photography.

Martha's Man
Martha’s Man at The Railway

Finally, Martha’s Man is playing at The Railway, Winchester, on 13 June. Having supported bands such as Passenger and Seahorses and, more recently, performing at the E4 music stage at V festival, the acoustic-pop solo artist is launching his debut album ‘Tale of the Robin’. I’ve played his EP ‘If your heart feels mine’ on loop for a week now and am thrilled that he’s performing in Winchester. Once again The Railway has re-affirmed its reputation for providing some of the best music and comedy in the city.

Our next guest blog will be brought to you by Rebecca Nice. Writer, dance critic, history geek and Winchy lover. Rebecca is a mature student at The University of Winchester studying Choreography and Dance combined with History. After teaching for eight years, she now writes for various publications and blogs about dance and all things arty-farty, whilst drinking copious amounts of tea and day dreaming in Winchester’s many café windows. @rebeccajsnice