Category Archives: Feature

Win Guide to February

Chococo Winchester
Chococo Winchester

Winter is dragging its heels, isn’t it? But February is not without its charms.  It’s a short month, which means Spring is on her way at last.  The word February unsurprisingly comes from Latin ‘februa’, a cleansing or purification ritual in readiness for Spring – which explains the rain.  The Anglo-Saxons called it ‘Solmonath’, which can be translated as ‘Mud Month’, and according to the scholar ‘Bede’ was also known as the month of cakes, after the old English custom of offering cakes to the gods to promote fertility as they sewed the seeds and ploughed the fields.  If that’s an excuse to indulge in the cold, we’ll take it. We’d recommend the gluton-free carrot cake at Chococo, washed down with their classic hot chocolate.

Theatre Alibi presents I Believe in Unicorns
Theatre Alibi presents
I Believe in Unicorns

If you know a 6 to 12 year – old, there’s an opportunity to inspire their love of storytelling and reading this month.  Theatre Alibi will be presenting Michael Morpurgo’s popular children’s story ‘I Believe In Unicorns’, adapted by Daniel Jamieson, 5th – 7th February at the Theatre Royal Winchester.  Running at one hour, it’s described as a 4 – star ‘evening of thrilling theatre’ by The Guardian. Whilst you’re in a theatre going mood and if you fancy a trip to London, Winchester – based theatre director Deborah Edgington’s (Chesil Theatre, Forest Forge) critically acclaimed production of Muswell Hill by Torben Betts is running 17th February – 14th March at the chic North London Park Theatre, recipient of the Best Fringe Theatre in The Stage Awards 2015.

February is, of course, Love month, which might explain the exponential increase in bugaboos recently, so with Valentine’s Day looming on 14th February, there’s no shortage of restaurants ready to welcome the lovers in. Lainston House Hotel is offering a £110/head eight – course tasting dinner, including bubbles and canapés on arrival. The Black Rat is offering a sumptuous £50/head set menu, and the River Cottage set menu is £35/head. Booking is obviously advised. Alternatively, folk/punk singer-songwriter Frank Turner will be playing on home soil at the Guildhall.

Shrove Tuesday
Family Bushcraft – Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday  – or pancake-day – also features this month on 17th February, which marks 40 days before Easter and is a chance for a feast before going without for Lent (if you’re that way inclined). The Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum and Gardens is offering an event called Family Bushcraft – Shrove Tuesday Cooking On the Fire. The morning session is sold out, but there’s an afternoon session now available 1.30pm – 4pm, £10 per child with an accompanying adult and suitable for 3-12 – year – olds. It’s part of their half-term fun activities at the Gardens. They’re also offering a Children’s Falconry Day on 19th and family nature trails every day.

For some indoor half-term fun, Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium will be holding an exciting, daily programme of special events for the holidays, from Saturday 14 February to Sunday 22th February. Holiday opening hours are Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm, Saturday and Sunday , 10am to 5pm. The City Mill is offering some half-term seasonal baking,  to show how the freshly milled wholemeal flour can be combined with a variety of local produce to make tasty treats.

To run off the cakes, the 33rd annual Winchester 10km Road Race with be held on Sunday 22nd February 2015, starting outside the Winchester Guildhall and proceeding up the historic High Street and along Jewry Street before heading out towards the village of Kingsworthy.  The return leg passes through the village of Headbourne Worthy and back towards Winchester before finishing at Winchester Football Club ground.

Image Credit: Jonty Wilde
Image Credit: Jonty Wilde

Finally, we suggest venturing to Jane Austen’s house in Chawton on 26th February for the event Stargazing: Poetry with Simon Armitage (CBE) & Moora Dooley. The evening will start at 6.30pm at the museum for readings of star – related poetry before walking through the unlit streets of the village to Chawton House to gaze up at the sky, before finishing with more poetry and refreshments in the Great Hall.  Tickets are £10.

 

Win Guide to January

It’s official. Christmas is over, New Year’s Eve passed in a blur of bubbles and bongs and a grey, dreary January has nudged its way in to break up the revelry.

Parkrun
Parkrun

So how to combat the winter blues? Well, to work off some of the festive indulgence and get involved in some outdoor fitness, why not join in with Parkrun every Saturday at 9am in the North Walls Recreation Ground? It’s open to all runners, from nervous beginners to spandex-clad pros, and it is an entirely free community endeavour to get people outdoors for a 5k run against the clock. All you have to do is register (once only is all that’s necessary) and bring along your printed bar code so you can get your time. It’s about fun rather than pressure, so not a bad way to get fit without the commitment of a gym membership if that isn’t your thing.

THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES
THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES

If you aren’t quite ready to let the festive theme go, then you could consider Jeff Goode’s ‘The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues’ by local theatre company Gallows Productions on 12th & 13th January at the Theatre Royal. The shows are dark and definitely adult in content so not a family panto affair. Tickets are a fiver or £7 with some mulled wine thrown in for those who aren’t on the wagon for January – or feel like falling off.

The Winchester Chamber Orchestra New Year concert takes place on the 10th January at St Paul’s Church. The programme includes Mozart’s piano concerto, Haydn’s symphony number  103 and Brahm’s St Anthony Variations. Later in the month the Winchester City Festival choir will be performing a concert on 31st January at St Swithun’s School. The programme includes Tsunami Requiem by Chris Williams, a dramatic commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Asian tsunami.

Cllr Eileen Berry, Mayor of Winchester
Cllr Eileen Berry, Mayor of Winchester

The Office of the Mayor of Winchester is one of the oldest mayoralties in England. The city was first given permission during the reign of Richard the Lionheart to create the role. The current Mayor, Cllr Eileen Berry, is the 815th on the historical roster and she has a busy start to the year. There’s the 6th annual Mayor’s Charities Quiz Night at the Winchester Guildhall on 9th January. Tickets are available from the Tourist Information office. Or, further up the hill, she’ll be opening her Mayors Choice art exhibition at the Discovery Centre featuring important local work from 31st January.

Twin Wild at The Railway
Twin Wild at The Railway

The Railway Inn has a great line-up of live music and comedy for January. Acts include rock quartet Twin Wild on 29th January, described by BBC Radio 1’s Edith Bowman as “The love child of Bastille and Biffy Clyro”. Or why not pop along to Roots and join in with Winchester’s longest running open mic night? Entry is free every Monday at 8.30pm and all levels of artists are welcome, from seasoned pros to first time gig’ers. Alternatively, banish the Sunday blues twice a month with the Late Train open mic comedy night. Again, entry is free with a donation bucket.

Plenty to do on a budget to brighten up a drab, cold January.

Win Guide to Christmas

Winchester has a myriad of seasonal treats on offer and we’ve picked just a few of our favourites…

Cadogan & Co
Cadogan & Co

The outfit

The Square has been described by the Telegraph as “the beating heart of chic Winchester”. Cadogan & Co has certainly earned this reputation. Featured in Vogue’s 100 best shopping destinations outside London, it’s a treasure trove of couture, sumptuous service and the perfect spot for those wanting to enjoy the act of trying and buying clothes. This independent retailer of designer menswear, ladieswear and homeware has been run for over 20 years by Alex Edwards, and the skillful, comfortable elegance of his welcoming approach, along with that of his staff, makes this the type of shop people will travel back to Winchester to seek out. Celebrity clients include Hugh Bonneville, Colin Firth, James Martin, Isabella Anstruther Gough-Calthorp among many others.

The carols

Christmas Carol Concert
Christmas Carol Concert

The Winchester Cathedral Christmas Carol Concert could send a shiver through even the most hardened humbug’s spine, with its stunning Cathedral Choir and candle-lit magnificence. The main concert will take place on Friday 12th December at 7pm, conducted by Andrew Lumsden with guest appearances by Stephen Gadd and Claire Rutter, international opera and concert singers and presented by BBC’s South Today Sally Taylor. If you don’t manage to get tickets, there will also be Britten’s Ceremony of Carols lunchtime concert at 1pm on 23rd December or of course midnight mass on Christmas eve (starting at 11.30pm).

Burcot Farm Christmas TreesThe tree

Burcott Farm is “fanatical” about Christmas trees, involved in both growing as well as selling them. Typically you’ll take home a Nordmann Fir between six and nine years old, although Burcott also offer traditional Norway Spruce ranging from 3 – 12 feet, along with tree stands, natural fruit and cone decorations and festive wreaths.

Winchester Christmas Market and Ice Rink
Winchester Christmas Market and Ice Rink

The family outing

The famous Winchester Christmas market in Cathedral Close boasts its open-air ice rink, which is a suitably festive family trip out (open from 20 November 2014 to 4 January 2015). For those who are less Torvill and Dean, more mulled wine and stollen, there are plenty of other festive distractions on offer in the beautifully lit Germanic fairytale cabins, including holiday food and Christmas gifts. Speaking of which…

The gift

Kingsgate Books & Prints
Kingsgate Books & Prints

Winchester is a pretty perfect Christmas shopping destination, with its blend of big name shops and independent retailers. Aside from the Christmas market and the fabulous Cadogan & Co, if you linger in the Square you could find some specialist kitchenware for those budding British Bake-off friends or family members at Dinghams. Or if you’re a bit Gen Y trendy, head into The Hambledon for vintage, clothing and homeware. If you want pure vintage, climb up the hill to Stardust Years for authentic ladies fashion and accessories. For something special you might like to pop over to Parchment Street to Boudoir Blush, which offers luxury lingerie with free gift wrapping. Chococo is a must for edible gifts, and we urge you to stop off for a hot chocolate whilst there. Finally, don’t forget the tucked away gem that is Kingsgate Village for Kingsgate Books & Prints, Cornflowers Gift Shop, P&G Wells Booksellers or Kingsgate Wine and Provisions. And there are many more hidden boutiques or purveyors of luxury items so get some walking boots on, boycott the online retainer whose name we dare not speak and dig out some hand-picked treasures.

The festive tipple

The Old Vine
The Old Vine

Sitting in an ideally central location, across from the Cathedral and in the heart of the Square, is The Old Vine hotel, bar and restaurant.  Managed by Austin, the Grade II listed 18th-century inn is the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the busy christmas markets and and shops. They have a well kept bar, competitively priced menu and a warm seasonal atmosphere.

 

The dinner

Beechcroft farm shop
Beechcroft farm shop

The award-winning Beachcroft farm shop near Crab Wood on Sarum Road isn’t really a secret anymore. A much-loved destination for local produce, with homegrown lamb, beef and pork courtesy of the small and wonderfully friendly family-run farm, Christmas orders are now being taken and you can download an order form online. Locally-reared turkeys are also on offer, along with all the trimmings. You can also purchase gift hampers or vouchers for fellow lovers of fine-quality Hampshire fare. The farm shop is open on Friday: 10am – 5.30pm,
 Saturday: 9am – 5pm and over Christmas, Mon. 22nd Dec 10am-5pm, Tues. 23rd Dec 7.30am – 5.30pm and Wed. 24th Dec 7.30am – 12pm. And you’ll also be able to catch Rachel or one of the team at the Winchester famers market on Sunday 14th December.

Sleeping Beauty, Theatre Royal Winchester
Theatre Royal Winchester

The panto

It’s time for panto. Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is, and the Theatre Royal is treating us to ‘Sleeping Beauty’ between Tues 9 Dec 2014 – Sun 4 Jan 2015. Embrace the festive audience participation with fire-breathing dragons, live music and original songs.

 

The Good deeds

Santa Fun Run
Santa Fun Run

Christmas is all about the giving, and there are lots of ways to get involved with local charity projects. On 13th December there’s the Winchester & District Young Carer’s Charity gift wrap in the Brooke’s centre. The Hampshire Chronicle Christmas Toy appeal allows you to donate a toy for a toddler up to a 13 year-old child with three local charities benefitting: Winchester Basics Bank, Friends of the Family and Home-Start Winchester. Finally, earn the forthcoming culinary indulgence with the Santa Fun Run, a 5k walk or run dressed head to toe as St Nic, in support of Naomi House and Jacksplace hospices for children and young adults on Sunday 7th December.

We’ll be bringing you more festive tips soon. Meanwhile, don’t forget the guide to parking as things get busy in our fair city.

Ballet Black is Back

Our editor Donald Hutera delves into the workings of Ballet Black, returning to Winchester for the second year in a row

A Dream Within a Midsummer Night's Dream" by Arthur Pita Photography: Bill Cooper
A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Arthur Pita
Photography: Bill Cooper

Ask Cassa Pancho, the artistic director of Ballet Black, what her dreams and plans for the company are and she answers, ‘To keep going.’ It might sound simple, maybe even glib, but behind the succinct reply is a vast amount of sheer hard graft.

Pancho, who is of Trinidadian and British parentage, studied classical ballet at the Royal Academy. Upon graduating, and having noted a dearth of people of colour either studying or working professionally in the ballet sphere, she decided to address this alarming omission by starting a company of her own. The result was Ballet Black, founded in 2001 with a mission to ‘provide dancers and students of black and Asian descent with inspiring opportunities in classical ballet.’

Since then the company has gradually attained a high-profile, earning acclaim, awards (including gongs from the dance section of Critics’ Circle for its outstanding repertory and as best independent company) and an avid fan-base. Among the chief reasons for its ascent is the calibre of dancing coupled with Pancho’s astute and truly impressive choice of choreographic commissions. The latter roster includes Irek Mukhamedov, Richard Alston, Shobana Jeyasingh, Liam Scarlett, Bawren Tavaziva, Henri Oguike, Christopher Hampson, Will Tuckett, Antonia Franceschi, Javier De Frutos, Mark Bruce and Jonathan Goddard. ‘When I began the company I was always the one inviting people to make ballets,’ Pancho explains, ‘but now we get a lot more asking us if they can create something.’

Here at The Winchester Guide we’re partial to Ballet Black, having worked with the company in the summer of 2009 on the production POP8 at the Giant Olive Theatre. It seems that audiences in Winchester may be likewise favourably inclined, given that the company’s upcoming performances at the Theatre Royal Nov 28 (triple bill, 7.30pm) and 29 (family show Dogs Don’t Do Ballet, 2pm and 4.30pm) constitutes its second visit to the venue. With any luck, this might well develop into an annual occurrence.

Pancho, not unnaturally, enjoys sharing information what the work the company is doing. As do the choreographers she invites to create on her dancers. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to call it a mutual admiration society.

Consider Martin Lawrance, a long-time associate (as both dancer and dance-maker) of Richard Alston’s company. The curtain-raising Limbo is the third time that he’s made work for Ballet Black, following the 2009 duet Pendulum and the quartet Captured three years later. Pancho deems his new work, a trio about being caught between life and death, ‘fiendishly difficult and exhausting to dance – but worth it!’

Lawrance, for his part, has a high regard for Ballet Black’s dancers. ‘They can do everything,’ he enthuses. ‘How can I get them to do things better, by which I mean push them in a different way?’ The result, set to Hindemeth’s fastidiously dramatic Viola Sonata, is a dark, dynamic piece that fulfils Lawrance’s creative brief to mine human feeling out of motion. ‘You make movement,’ he says, explaining his approach to choreography. ‘I don’t go into the studio with a dramatic idea. I just see where the phrases lead, but as it turns out that can be done poetically.’

Sharing the first half of Friday’s evening bill with Lawrance’s Limbo is Two of a Kind by dancer (including with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures) turned chorographer Christopher Marney. Pancho describes it as ‘a beautiful quartet set to Ravel and Tchaikovsky, exploring the theme of one woman’s internal journey through the course of a changing relationship.’ This work has been expanded from its original state as an eight-minute pas de deux fashioned for a Ballet Black fundraiser in 2009.

Dogs Don't Do Ballet
Dogs Don’t Do Ballet

Two of a Kind is the second dance Marney’s made for the company, after having scored a hit with War Letters last year. But it doesn’t stop there. Marney is also responsible for Dogs Don’t Do Ballet, based on Anna Kemp’s best-selling children’s book about, in Pancho’s words, ‘a little dog who thinks he’s a ballerina and doesn’t want to do anything but dance. The company really enjoys working with Chris as his choreography is incredibly inventive, funny and touching – all the things that make the book so special.’ Pancho is pleased because, as she says, ‘I’ve always wanted to have a ballet for families to enjoy together.’

Another important aspect of Dogs Don’t Do Ballet, she adds, is that it marks the first time Ballet Black is using a set. Is it any wonder that Marney’s scheduled to make another work for the company in 2016?

A Dream Within a Midsummer Night's Dream" by Arthur Pita Photography: Bill Cooper
A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Arthur Pita
Photography: Bill Cooper

That only leaves Arthur Pita’s Olivier and Critics’ Circle-nominated ensemble piece A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream to be discussed. ‘I’d wanted to work with Arthur for a while,’ Pancho confesses, ‘and when he suggested  a Midsummer Night’s Dream that’s turned on its head I jumped at the chance. We have an incredible catalogue of ballets, but for our fourth narrative work I wanted to try something less traditional and really give the dancers a challenge. Arthur’s created a pure gem of a ballet for us, traditional in one sense – it’s our first time with tutus! – but just as you think you’re going to see something very classical he pulls the rug out from under you. The music includes Eartha Kitt, Handel, Jeff Buckley, Yma Sumac and Barbara Streisand, to name a few. Arthur has a true gift for weaving these things together to make one of my all-time favourite BB ballets. It feels like a real piece of theatre. We’ve toured it around the UK and Italy, and audiences are loving it.’

You could hardly ask for a more heart-felt and articulate endorsement than that. Still, it’s worth finding out what it meant to Pita himself to create the piece. For starters, he really appreciates that with this 25-minute work for eight dancers he was able to take a risk. ‘The first section of the piece is a ballet with tutus, tights, pointe shoes and the works – something I’d never done. I’m totally fascinated by the laws of the tutu and how they marry to a balletic vocabulary. It was wonderful collaborating with designer Jean-Marc Puissant who has such vast knowledge about tutus. I learned so much about the atheistic of ballet generally, and the dancers were so encouraging. I’d also just come out of doing a darker piece prior to working with Ballet Black, and so I felt the need to do something lighter and have some fun with the dancers.’

Pita says his goal was ‘to create a ballet in which rules can be broken and mended within the laws of classical ballet and theatre.’ But his intentions towards his source material remained honourable. ‘I’ve always loved A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played the Indian boy way back in the English National Opera’s production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, and I remember thinking how well the narrative lent itself to dance and music. Shakespeare provides much mischief and glorious images to play with, yet there’s an honesty in all of the characters’ desire. It’s not faithful, but it’s certainly inspired by the world of Shakespeare’s Dream. It’s an adaptation of the idea, hence the title. The images of the narrative are there, but the journey to them is different.’

Asked to pinpoint what the pleasure of working with Ballet Black is, Pita replies, ‘It’s the passion they have for their work. They work in a tiny space in Marylebone, and I mean tiny, and only have a big studio once a week at the Royal Opera House. Somehow, with love and compassion, they manage with no complaints. There’s a joyous atmosphere in the studio. And Cassa gives herself fully. She cares so much about the company and what it stands for. She’s kept the company going with only a little support from Arts Council England, but has gone from strength to strength.’

Based at Marylebone Dance Studio in London, Ballet Black occupies a unique place on the British dance scene and Pancho is rightly proud of it. ‘We’ve achieved many things over the years. Our main goal was and is to inspire more children and dancers of black or Asian heritage to take up ballet in some form.’ To that end, she says, ‘We have a thriving school for children that’s packed with students of all colours; they come to the performances, take classes, and pass ballet exams. Another goal was going from being a part-time group to a full-time professional company over fourteen years. We’ve won two Critics’ Circle awards (plus three nominations) and have toured extensively throughout the UK, Italy and Bermuda. Our entirely original repertoire of over 30 ballets by over 25 choreographers is also quite rare.’ While Pancho admits that ‘a lack of substantial, regular money makes it challenging to plan too far ahead,’ she remains determined and optimistic about the company’s future. ‘I don’t like to think that anything can hold us back.’

Let there be light

‘Tis the season of dark mornings and pitch-black journeys home in the late afternoon or evening, but Winchester is about to deliver some festive illumination to lighten up our mood.

Winchester Christmas light 'switch on'
Winchester Christmas light ‘switch on’

There are two Christmas light ‘switch on’ events to look forward to this month.  The first, taking place today (Thursday 13th November) will be an all-singing/all-dancing affair between 3-7pm on the High Street and Broadway. Capital FM’s breakfast presenters, Gillies and Emily, will host the event. Performers include Integr8 Dance, Winchester’s Military Wives Choir, Encore Youth Theatre and a cheeky panto preview from the cast of the Theatre Royal’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’. As for the grand finale at 6pm, Xfactor’s boyband ‘Concept’ will perform to a laser light and music show. Well, if you can’t have a bit of a camembert at Christmas… The event has been kindly sponsored by Denplan. The 13th also marks the start of late-night shopping on a Thursday in the city, plus free parking from 4.30pm. For full details on where and when visit here.

Cornflowers window display
Cornflowers window display

If you miss out on the 13th fear not, for Kingsgate Village will be hosting its inaugural ‘switch on’ taking place beneath the medieval gateway at 6pm on 20th November. The Bishop of Winchester will be guest of honour, and the evening promises be a traditional mix of music, late-night shopping and mulled wine. Kingsgate Village oozes its own sophisticated, friendly and accessible style, with Kingsgate Book & Prints, Cornflowers Gift Shop, Kingsgate Wine & Provisions and the booksellers P&G Wells. It’s a perfect Christmas (or any time) shopping destination for those looking for something special and off the beaten track with wonderful personal service from the dedicated shop owners and staff. As a bonus, from 6.30pm P&G Wells is hosting a joint book launch with the Wykeham Arms for Meats, Eats, Drinks & Leaves by Penny Ericson and Proteus by Simon Hawkins. Full details here.

Twilight Tower Tours
Twilight Tower Tours

And for a stellar view of the spectacle that is Winchester’s ‘perfect Christmas’, from 21st November the Cathedral will be offering a Twilight Tower Tour with a second to none view of the Christmas lights as they sparkle across the city. After the tour, you can enjoy some mulled wine and mince pies in the medieval Undercroft. There’s a minimum age restriction of 12 years and an adult must accompany children under 16 years. (Although there’s no set upper age limit for this tour, it’s a steep climb and not recommended for the elderly, infirm, disabled or pregnant.)

So shake off the winter blues and begin to embrace the impending Yuletide in all its glittering glory.

Flying squad to leave police headquarters

The alert Judith Harvey finds there are feathers on certain Winchester rooftops.

Peregrine_Falcon
Peregrine Falcon (RSPB)

You may have heard the screams. If you live in Winchester and are outdoors in the early morning or evening, listen and look up. You could catch sight of a large bird with broad pointed wings flashing across the sky. It is a peregrine falcon, and it is a local resident.

Peregrine falcons have lived round Winchester for centuries, and not just in the wild. In medieval falconry, the peregrine was the princes’ bird. There are still several falconries in the area.  They offer displays, the opportunity to try falconry out and even full-fledged falconry courses. Contributors to TripAdvisor recommend them highly.

Winchester Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral

Tall trees are where wild peregrines traditionally nest, but in urban areas they have found an alternative: tall buildings. Winchester Cathedral has had a peregrine nest – called a scrape – on one of the tower turrets since 2000, and most years they raise several chicks, known as eyasses. Visitors can watch the birds through a telescope. But having peregrines nest on your cathedral is not unusual. What makes Winchester unique is not its cathedral peregrines but those that nest on the police headquarters.

Peregrine Falcon (RSPB)
Peregrine Falcon (RSPB)

Apparently a pair went house-hunting at the police headquarters several years ago, and in January 2013 the Force agreed that Hampshire Ornithological Society could put a nesting box on their roof. So it’s not a police dog kennel up there, but a falcon nest. A police spokesman says the peregrines have been good tenants and never yet called them out for domestic disputes. In 2013 they reared two chicks – sorry, eyasses – and this year four hatched on 21st May. They fledged after about six weeks, but are dependent on their parents until they can hunt for themselves.

That is a very skilled task. Peregrines eat small and medium birds. They help control Winchester’s pigeon population, but your pet cat is safe. Diving at up to 200 miles per hour, they are said to be the world’s fastest animals. When they spot a suitable prey they tuck in their wings and drop like a guided missile. They stun the prey with their powerful talons and then twist to catch it in their beak. A spectacular sight.

In 2015 the police will move to new headquarters. The current building will be demolished and redeveloped for housing. It is unlikely to suit the peregrines, so they will be looking for a new home. Has anybody got high-rise accommodation available?

November Win Guide

Remember, remember! 
The fifth of November, 
The Gunpowder treason and plot; 

Winchester Bonfire and Fireworks
Winchester Bonfire and Fireworks

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.

Winchester Bonfire and Fireworks
Winchester Bonfire and Fireworks

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.

Ballet Black
Ballet Black

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.

Winchester Wine Festival
Winchester Wine Festival

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).

Winchester Christmas Market
Winchester Christmas Market

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.

The Curse of the Butter Cross and other spooky tales

Rebecca JS Nice is your guide on a shivery stroll round Winchester – if you dare!

The Butter Cross, Winchester
The Butter Cross, Winchester

Have you been struck by ‘The Curse of the Butter Cross’?

It may be best to ask this of anyone who’s ever sat upon the cold, raked steps of this local landmark and watched the world go by. I certainly have. But you may want to think twice before doing so.

Situated on modern-day Winchester’s High Street, the Butter Cross was constructed during the reign of Henry VI. As a popular meeting place for centuries it has, inevitably, attracted its share of legends.  One describes a witch in the Middle Ages who, before she was burnt at the stake, somehow converted the Cross into a site that compels you to return to it again and again, never leaving the city.

Perhaps it’s her curse that makes residents of Winchester so loyal to their historic home. Sit there and not only will you possibly never leave, but you might just glimpse a shadowy figure racing to the Cathedral when the Guildhall clock strikes eight and the curfew rings…

Wandering up the High Street and nipping through Royal Oak Passage, listen out for the whispered conversations resonating between the walls. But don’t linger too long, especially if you’re by yourself. You may notice that although you’re all alone, traces of a conversation can still be heard…

Then head past Barclay’s Bank, which was built on the site of a 17th-century stable block where a Royalist was tortured during the Civil War. Rasping and choking sounds were heard back when the building used to be a hotel. Perhaps Master Say – who tried to save his horses from pillagers and was betrayed by his servant – still relives his ordeal on this spot. Hauled up and down by the bridle placed round his neck, and almost-but-not-quite strangled, his body has apparently been heard thudding onto the cobbled floor…

Matthew Feldwick’s  'Haunted Winchester'
Matthew Feldwick’s ‘Haunted Winchester’

Continuing my hunt for a ghostly visitation in Winchester, I head along Jewry Street to the Discovery Centre. The building was once the Corn Exchange, and later a theatre and cinema. Matthew Feldwick’s book Haunted Winchester tells of singing with no clear source heard in the basement. ‘One of the café girls got in a real flap once,’ the manager tells me, ‘and refused to go down there again.’ A real lad’s lad, he adds that upon occasion he’s felt an eerie twinge himself when locking up late at night.

Before I can hear more about this an assistant and I venture down to the library cellar. The brick arches and row upon row of books are silent now, but might they harbour vestiges of other and possibly disturbing stories after dark? The assistant is a real joker, switching off the lights and temporarily plunging us into darkness. Tip-toeing down to the far end of the space, which used to be a public toilet, I sense a definite drop in temperature. That’s when this fellow tells me about a woman who was found dead in the lavatory. He doesn’t say how long ago, nor what she died of, but this unsettling information is enough to bring these subterranean explorations to a halt.

When I return to the box office area, the manager remembers another night awhile back when the two men were working late. They were alone in the building, the last to leave and locking up each level, when suddenly the lift of its own accord announced that it was ‘going down.’ And down it came, opening its empty doors to the two slightly unnerved fellows who vow they never pressed any button at all…

Hyde Tavern
Hyde Tavern

Spoilt for choice with haunted pubs in Winchester, I opt for the Hyde Tavern. My choice is bolstered by a colleague at The University who almost jumps out of his skin with excitement when told what I’m researching for The Winchester Guide. ‘Come to the Hyde, Rebecca! I live next door, and if there’s anywhere to go and write about strange happenings in Winchester then that’s it. Jan the manager will tell you about the bed sheets that get thrown off the bed and other spooky goings on there.’

I know the tale of the poor woman who was long, long ago refused a room for the night at the Hyde. Her frozen body was found on the steps outside the next morning. Guests of the tavern are said to have experienced unsettling overnight stays thereafter.

So I head to the Hyde, ducking the beams of this simple but vintage bar with its sunken, sloping floors. I make myself at home there, chatting away to a friend and almost forgetting the reason I came. Eventually I speak with Jan, the Hyde’s owner-manager for several years. Although she doesn’t believe there’s anything awry with the place, she does recount a couple of incidents which are more than enough to set imaginations rolling and spines tingling. Mobile phones popping out of hands, for instance, or builders swearing blind that the cupboard they locked every night was open by morning…

Then there was the regular who was sitting at a table by the fire when his pint suddenly burst.  Did heat from the fire on a cold pint cause the glass to crack, or is it perhaps that the spirit of the aforementioned frozen lady has a problem with certain males? Another pint left on the floor by Jan’s daughter also exploded for no apparent reason. The previous owners swore there was something or somebody ‘in residence’ at the Hyde, but since Jan took over everything’s been peaceful – no unexplained nocturnal antics involving stolen bedcovers!

The Eclipse Inn
The Eclipse Inn

The Theatre Royalthe Cathedral and the Eclipse Inn are just a few of the many other places associated with bloody histories, strange activities and so on in Winchester. Maybe some of you reading this have had your own odd or shiver-inducing encounters with the unexplained. People speak highly of the city as a community and a cultural hub, but you can’t help but wonder who – or what – might lurk in its darker corners, or tread in locations perhaps not quite as well-known to either locals or visitors. With Halloween approaching it’s tempting to take a walk through these ordinary and perhaps familiar places. But, as darkness falls and the chill sets in, don’t forget that something extraordinary and inexplicable might be just around the corner…

Review: Casting Traces

Casting Traces, New Movement Collective
Casting Traces, New Movement Collective

The Watching and The Watched: Casting Traces at Guildhall, Winchester. Reviewed by Rebecca JS Nice on 23rd October 2014

Inspired by Paul Auster’s series of post-modern detective novels The New York Trilogy, Casting Traces invites viewers to share the space of six dancers and a violinist and travel constantly from beginning to end. Refreshingly exciting and unsettling, New Movement Collective’s promenade production turns heads every which way by breaking down the fourth wall entirely and blurring the boundaries between public and performer, the watching and the watched.

Audience members, instructed to hang our jackets up and replace them with white coats, are left in a narrow space before three archways filled with large sheets of paper. The show itself is slow to start, beginning with a silhouetted scene with dancers lit from behind and their shadows darting across the paper surfaces. The piece becomes more interesting as they pour a strange clear liquid from a test tube around their shadow, and then pull the paper away in the shape of a figure to reveal their real selves and a new area behind them. The space is now larger but divided into planes and sections by paper walls at various heights. Views are blocked and opened, compositions cropped and ever-changing.

Much of Casting Traces is busy and disorienting due to the shifting use of space, projected images, moving musicians and people everywhere. It’s hard to decide where to look and how to navigate. The wandering white coat brigade explores the performance environment, peering and searching, ducking out of dancers’ paths, crouching below or tiptoeing above the paper. Our white jackets make us anonymous and, at the same time, turn us into an extension of the paper walls as the projections hit our bodies. The jackets heighten the sense of voyeurism, but they also continually alter our roles between that of silent interrogator and observant performer; as spectators we’re somehow both active and yet inactive. But the complex, often jarring relationships between performer, viewer and space compete with one another. It therefore takes longer than usual to become accustomed to the setting, and take control of how to interact with and view the show.

Having created  an exercise in the demarcation, navigation and dislocation of space, NMC can only be critiqued in attempting too much. The relationships between the dancers themselves aren’t always clear; perhaps a simpler theme related to the playing of space would’ve been enough without any additional narrative content. However, when Casting Traces works it really works. I take a step back to the far wall and watch two trios constantly embracing and swapping places in the foreground, staying put as they travel through the paper to the next picture plane. Glimpses of tender facial expressions and gestures are much more poignant when framed between a body and torn paper. As the music becomes more emotive the dancers progress further and further back as the areas they leave are plunged into darkness. Duets and solos, delivered in fits and blasts in pockets and corners of the space, develop into an ensemble energy that builds as tension and dislocation subside.

Casting Traces is a must-see for the risks it takes and the immersive atmosphere it creates. Unusual, beautiful and full of mysteries to investigate, the viewing experience is entirely dependent on the individual and therefore entirely different for everyone willing to become involved.

Casting Traces: The Paper Maze is at Guildhall, Winchester until Saturday October 25. Book tickets here

New Movement in Winchester

Winchester Guide editor Donald Hutera interviews stellar dancer Jonathan Goddard in advance of two dance-based productions heading to Winchester this month and next…

Casting Traces, New Movement Collective
Casting Traces, New Movement Collective

Formed in 2009, New Movement Collective (NMC) is one of the more exciting things to happen to British dance in recent times. Jonathan Goddard is a founding member. Formerly associated with Scottish Dance TheatreRichard Alston Dance Company and Rambert Dance Company, Goddard holds the distinction of being the first contemporary dancer to win a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award as the year’s Best Male Dancer. This was in 2008, the same year he began a choreographic collaboration with fellow dancer (and NMC member) Gemma Nixon.

As a longtime professional dance critic for The Times and many other publications and websites, I’m a firm fan of Goddard. He’s currently touring the UK as popular culture’s most celebrated bloodsucker in choreographer Mark Bruce’s shivery take on Dracula (a production that won a South Bank Sky Arts Award for dance). I’m also keen on New Movement Collective, especially after having seen them in action in Nest. Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, and staged as a multi-media promenade performance in a converted church on Shaftesbury Avenue in London, this dance-based NMC production was a cultural highlight of 2013. That year the company brought a film installation performance to The Discovery Centre, Winchester. Conceived by visual artist Graham Gussin and featuring six dancers, Close Protection was a three-screen work using the same night vision technology employed by combat camera teams.

Now, this very month and next, NMC is back in Winchester with two productions. The first is a remounting of ‘Casting Traces‘, a 50-minute site-specific performance first seen in a former London dairy in 2012. Presented at Winchester’s historic Guildhall (October 23-25 at 7.30pm, with additional shows at 5.30pm Friday and 2.30pm Saturday), the piece melds movement, film, light and music all in a paper maze environment. ‘Casting Traces‘ could serve as a valuable sort of prelude to NMC’s newest work ‘Please Be Seated’ (November 8, 8.30pm at Theatre Royal Winchester), an ambitious one-off that transfers to London’s Southbank Centre a few days later. But then ambitious – as well as inventive and innovative – could be deemed among NMC’s top creative watchwords.

Donald Hutera: How is New Movement Collective run, meaning how does a many-talented-headed beast like this actually operate?

Jonathan Goddard: The collective is set up as a co-operative of eleven individual choreographers who come together in different formations and groupings to work on projects with exciting collaborators from other creative disciplines. On a day-to-day level there’s a core team of members that keep the company engine running in-between projects.  Many of us double up and take on other roles apart from that of performers and choreographers. We’ve worked to acquire other skills such as producing, marketing or graphic design, trying to understand all aspects of what we’re creating to see if there are any ways we can do things differently.

DH: What role do you think NMC fills in either the UK or wider, global dance ecology?

JG: NMC is trying to explore and develop how dance can be experienced, challenging some of the existing structures for presentation and creation. We work collaboratively and take collective responsibility for our work, allowing us to function more like a design house or architectural practice than a traditional repertory company or choreographer-led ensemble.  An entrepreneurial approach means we can shift and change, working with the right people to give the best result for each individual project.

DH: What are the risks and/or rewards of presenting work outside of London?

JG: We’re always looking for architecturally interesting or unusual places to conceive or develop work. It’s exciting to feel as if we’re exposing hidden corners of a city or town, and liberating as creators to use architecture as a stimulus or catalyst.  We often present work internationally with events developed during our involvement with the Architectural Association. The challenges of touring our larger NMC work are the costs involved, and the difficulty of being able to develop an audience without regular yearly visits.

DH: Where is NMC’s home base or headquarters, and where do the works tend to get created at least initially?

JG: Our members are quite spread out across the UK and Europe so we don’t actually really have any set company base. In the past, productions have been created in London because of our links with Rambert Dance Company and the opportunity to use their studio spaces when not occupied, but our most recent work ‘Please Be Seated’ was made in Valencia, Spain as this was the easiest and cheapest for the most amount of people to be in one place at one time.

DH: How is the work created? Obviously with the core team plus guest performers and collaborators, but who leads or steers a project?

JG: It’s an interesting question. We never considered making work collectively until we began developing ideas as tutors at the Architectural Association on their Interprofessional Studio. There we research, create and design a series of yearly spatial project-events that aim to defy categorisation and stimulate debate. This ongoing academic practice leads us to different ways of thinking about creation, and through it we’ve found ways of developing ideas together and creating successful networks across creative disciplines to develop the content for each show. In practical terms at any given time one person steers or leads the group or how the group makes decisions, but who occupies this role isn’t set and this can organically change very quickly. We’ve found a high level of concentration and stamina is needed to work in this way, but the filter the group provides during the creative process is always challenging and invigorating.

DH: How much of a time commitment can be made to NMC when many of you seem to have a lot else going on?

JG: Commitment between members fluctuates. We try to schedule time and look ahead for the big projects but it’s definitely challenging with our busy schedules. Outside projects are vital to allow us to work together and not feel stifled. The company also benefits from the exposure and experiences members bring back from outside commitments. It is, however, challenging to get us all in one place at the same time! I’ve no idea how this’ll evolve in the future, but it’s good that we aren’t trying to fit into any idea of existing company structure. Instead we’re creating something that works for all of us as artists and friends and best serves the type of work we choose to make together.

DH: I don’t know Paul Auster’s trilogy. How much of a springboard was that book, and why did you choose it as source matieral? Also, what did you learn from making that debut piece?

Book cover of Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy
Paul Auster’s ‘The New York Trilogy’

JG: Generally with our creative processes we work with lots of different disciplines and collaborators, so there’s a need for a strong structure or map that everyone can hold onto to guide us through. For our debut piece ‘Casting Traces’ we settled on Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy and, more specifically, the first book of the trilogy City of Glass. The idea for the show initially came from the venue. We were commissioned by the architect Will Alsop to propose a show for an ex-dairy factory event space he helped co-run and curate in Battersea called TestBed1. Our first thoughts were to create a paper maze in the space to alter and explore the perspectives of the audience. From this came the idea that the observer would have to play detective, which in turn led us to the noir meta-fiction of Auster’s fantastic novel.

In doing this piece we learnt that total audience freedom can be a dividing concept. We originally allowed viewers to explore a space and watch the show from whatever perspective they chose. From feedback we gathered that roughly 50% of our audience loved the opportunity to create their own experience, and the other half wanted to be presented set frames of action un-obscured by fellow moving observers. We’ve since sought to create a theatrical structure that uses the physical architecture created by the maze itself to make an experience which seeks to get the best of both worlds.

DH: If Casting Traces had a smell, touch and taste (and you can pluralise these) what would it/they be?

JG: If Casting Traces had a smell I think it would be that of the perfume of someone who’s just left, or it would be something you couldn’t quite grasp like steam rising from a vent. If I had to give it a taste it would  maybe be something clean like a gin martini served in an unusual glass late at night, and somewhere you wouldn’t expect to be drinking it.

DH: How is the piece being adapted for or tailored to The Guildhall in Winchester?

Casting Traces is re-imaginged and re-designed for each venue on a tour. We work alongside architect Elin Eyborg to design the maze each time to best suit the space and its characteristics. Staging the show in The Guildhall in Winchester will be quite an intimate and concentrated experience. It’ll be interesting to see how the history of the building affects the tone of the work. We also have some fantastic new dancers joining the cast, so it’ll be exciting to see how they develop and adapt the work with their take on the material.

Please Be Seated, New Movement Collective
Please Be Seated, New Movement Collective

DH: Please tell me more about ‘Please Be Seated’: the concept behind the production, and how these aims and intentions are going to be  realised…

JG: ‘Please be Seated’ is our new work for 2014. It’s the first piece we’ve made as a collective for a traditional theatre space. We’re working on the project with the furniture designer Jutta Friedrichs, sound artist Ben Houge and lighting designer Yaron Abulfia. We took as our starting point the absurdity in group organisations, and the challenges of political and architectural structures. We previewed the piece earlier this year in Valencia, Spain where it went down well. We’re showing a brand-new version of the work tailored to the Theatre Royal Winchester before taking it to the Southbank’s Purcell Room in London. Having set ourselves up as group of creators working outside the theatre space, we’re quite excited to try and subvert that by seeing what happens if we explore traditional venues in unconventional ways. The dancing as always will be athletic and intriguing, and again we have some great performers new to NMC who’ll bring their own unique stamp to the work.