Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Out and About at Christmas

Opening presents and eating all the food in sight is good fun but it only takes up a small proportion of Christmas week, and I'm not one for spending all day watching TV, so we've been out and about too.

To Swan Lake, Ilkeston on a damp Boxing Day

To Rushcliffe Country Park

Back to Chatsworth for my third visit of this Christmas

And, on a gloriously sunny day, a walk round Biddulph Grange gardens

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Christmas at Haddon

  A couple of weeks ago I won a competition on Facebook to visit Haddon Hall this Christmas. Ill health meant I had to leave my visit till the last minute but eventually I went and had a fab time.

 Haddon, with its old stone and small-paned windows, is wonderful and atmospheric at any time of year but especially at Christmas with roaring fires and twinkling lights.

Decorations throughout were mainly natural materials, and I even got chance to make one of my own - a small pomander fragranced with orange and cinnamon.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

One of those Sundays ...

 One of those bizarre Sundays - first a trip to local National Trust property, Kedleston Hall in the afternoon to see Christmas decorations.

I've found in the past that their festive decorations aren't as showy as other places', but this year they were very limited; the wickerwork dog at reception was definitely getting into the Christmas spirit though.

 Then in the evening a different sort of culture - a visit to Chameleon Arts Cafe in Nottingham to see Sean McGowan (and the ubiquitous George Gadd). This was the first place I saw Sean play, years ago when my daughter was doing gig promotion, but I haven't been back for a long while.

Sean was performing solo this tour, and sang at first without even a guitar accompaniment -there's not many who can quieten a chattering crowd with their voice, but he did!

Following Thursday's depressing election results, his songs seemed to have more of a protest element to them, but I think that's just me hearing old lyrics afresh in the light of current events; the protest has always been there.
Sean is, incidentally (and probably without realising it) the guy who persuaded me that I'm not too old to get out to gigs, so it's always good to go along when he's in town, and this is the second time I've seen him this year.

Friday, 20 December 2019

Timber 2020 - first acts announced

Caught up in the run-up to Christmas you might not think it's time to be planning next summer, but the organisers at Timber festival are doing just that, with the announcement of the first wave of performers. 2020 will be the third year of arts, music, crafts and discussions at the National Forest's Feanedock site, and from my experience in previous years it will be wonderful, thought-provoking and entertaining.

The Unthanks
The first guest appearances and musical acts have now been announced. Northumbrian alt-folk group, The Unthanks will be bringing their ethereal, dreamy sound to the Field Notes stage - and to be honest it's hard to imagine a better setting for their music than a moonlit woodland glade.

Sam Lee

 Joining them on the line-up will be Mercury-nominated folk singer Sam Lee, playing two sessions - one on the big Filed Notes stage, the other a more intimate affair around the woodland campfire in the As The Crow Flies area. Gary Stewart will be back (he's previously played Timber as part of Hope and Social), this time with a seven-piece band recreating Paul Simon's Graceland album.

Simon Armitage
Geoff Bird, from BBC Radio 4, will be returning with his Wilderness Tracks feature, in which guests from the worlds of music, literature and art chat about their favourite nature-inspired pieces of music. Previous guests have been as diverse as Phill Jupitus, Robert Macfarlane and Laura Barton; announced so far for next year are Grammy Award winning percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, and Poet Laureate Simon Armitage (who'll also be DJ-ing into the night on the Eyrie stage)

For me, one of the highlights of last year's festival was Lost in Translation's production of The Baron in the Trees, which combined aerial acrobatics, trapeze and circus skills, so I'm delighted to see similar acts listed for next year; Chris Bullzini with a Treetop Tightrope Spectacular taking place above the forest canopy, Ramshacklicious, the Band at the End of the World, a dystopian troupe of strange silent characters, and Heliosphere with acrobatics performed suspended from a helium balloon.

Although there will be plenty of pure entertainment, there's also a more serious side to Timber, encouraging us to explore the benefits of nature and to consider the impact we have on it. In 2020, the emphasis will lie on our impact and how we can tackle the climate crisis. Speaker and discussion leaders are yet to be announced but tying in with this theme will be a reading of  Letters to the Earth, a book of moving and inspiring letters from the public about the climate crisis, and in an associated audio-installation audiences will be able to listen to recordings of contributors from Greta Thunberg to David Attenborough.
The amount of food which goes to waste is a shocking issue, but Leicester-based community organisation Perfectly Edible UK will be trying to reduce this the Binner Party, a popular feature from last year's festival in which a two course meal is created entirety from food which would otherwise have gone to landfill.

So far, it looks like Timber 2020 is shaping up to be another wonderful weekend in the forest.

I've been along twice, courtesy of organisers Wild Rumpus, in 2018 as a day visitor, last year trying out the full camping experience, and it's a remarkable experience combining activities, discussions, and music suitable for both young and old, and anyone inbetween. My general caveat would be - not for petrol-heads or fans of heavy metal.

 There are more details on Timber's website, and if you're still looking for Christmas gifts, the National Forest Co are donating a tree for every early-bird ticket purchased before 24th December.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Christmas at Calke 2019

Every Christmas we go round as many local decorated stately homes as possible, but I don't think I've been to Calke before at this time of year, so a couple of weekend's ago we headed there.

Unlike at, say, Chatsworth, the decorations here are mainly outdoors, and the lights lit at sunset, so we arrived quite late in the day.

After a visit to the Christmas market being held in the Riding School, it was thoroughly dark, and we followed the trail of lanterns which led to the front of the house then up to the church.

Heading back towards the house gave plenty of opportunity to see its exterior lit up in ever changing colour.

Then we headed inside ...

only a small portion of the house was open to visitors - with a huge tree decorated at the bottom of the main staircase

and a smaller one by the servants' stairs.

Calke is preserved in a state of neglect and decay, and the home-made decorations seemed fitting in this atmosphere.

From here the trail led somewhere I've never ventured before - through the tunnel which connects house and stables, and was once used for servants to move food, coal and such to the house without being seen. I'm not good with confined spaces or anywhere underground, but the way was well lit and quite wide so wasn't too troubling.

Even so, I was glad to see the steps which led up into the old brewhouse and marked the end of the route.