Monday, 3 April 2017

NEWBURY SPRING FESTIVAL: Bollywood to Hollywood and Beyond 6–20 May 2017

Whether you love a bit of Bollywood or if Hollywood is more your scene, or if your musical preferences lie somewhere else entirely, Newbury Spring Festival 2017 is sure to have a show for you!

Newbury Spring Festival brings to Newbury and West Berkshire a fabulous fortnight of world-class music in Newbury and its neighbouring villages, with over 40 events in venues ranging from Newbury Corn Exchange to Highclere Castle and from village churches to Lord Lloyd Webber’s private chapel.

Now in its 39th year, the aim of the Festival is to bring excellent, new and innovative work from around the world to the local area, creating opportunities for young people, existing and new audiences to enjoy the arts.

The Festival is renowned for bringing together an exciting mix of musicians and musical entertainment. Every year international symphony orchestras, ensembles and soloists rub shoulders with jazz legends, choirs and children’s entertainers, and this year brings together a particularly exciting programme, with something to suit every musical taste.

So – Bollywood, Hollywood or something else entirely? On 19 May Bollywood Brass Band delights with six hot horns and four funky drummers, blending hot Hindi film hits with riotous Indian wedding music and Punjabi beats for a uniquely ‘London’ take on this popular music genre. On 20 May Hollywood comes to town in the shape of Matt Ford and his show, ‘Close to You’, an evening of songs inspired by Sinatra’s legendary collaboration with the Hollywood String Quartet. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra perform on the opening and closing nights respectively, whilst versatile singing group VOCES8 and award-winning Brodsky Quartet come to two local churches – VOCES8 to East Woodhay on 10 May and The Brodskys to Shaw the following evening.

The name Dankworth is legendary, and the jazz bassist son of John Dankworth and Cleo Laine brings his band Alec Dankworth’s World Spirit to Arlington Arts Centre on 18 May, while Northumbrian folk music and traditions are heralded on 16 May at the Corn Exchange when Kathryn Tickell and The Side perform a show featuring evocative slow airs that could break your heart followed by dizzying jigs and reels.

The delightful musical comedy ‘Betty Blue Eyes’ is staged on 12 May; based on Alan Bennet’s award-winning film ‘A Private Function’, the story is based in 1947 and is about a pig named Betty who is being reared illegally for a very special event, with hilarious consequences!

With 2017 being the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, there are three Austen-inspired events, including an adaptation of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ narrated by none other than film-star Hayley Mills, with music by Carl Davis, on 7 May.

Particular events to appeal to children include Dr Dee’s Daughter and the Philosopher’s Stone, with live music, puppetry and storytelling on 13 May. In addition, Travelling By Tuba brings a world of musical instruments and fun (watch out for the exploding tuba!) on 20 May. Adults who love fun with their music are sure to enjoy Worbey & Farrell on 9 May – internationally acclaimed pianists with a wicked sense of humour!

With young emerging artists an important part of the Festival, the Young Artists Lunchtime Recital Series is a series of six concerts, three of which star young men with local links: trombonist Michael Buchanan (8 May), Benjamin Cunningham (12 May) and Leo Popplewell (17 May).

Tickets for the shows are at varying prices to suit most pockets and some performances are even free for children. A special opportunity for those aged 15–30 is the Young Festival Critics scheme –register to attend a show completely free of charge and write a review; on top of this, all reviews are entered into a competition to win £100.

This is truly just a taster of all that Newbury Spring Festival has to offer: check out their brochure for details of all the other delights at

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Choc's away! It's Easter in Newbury

There’s no better place to be at Easter than Newbury, with many events taking place that will appeal to all ages.

Giant Easter Egg Hunt
8­ to 22 April
Whoop whoop – Newbury’s Giant Easter Egg Hunt is back for another year! Organised by Newbury BID in conjunction with Parkway, this has now become an established tradition in the town. This year’s GEEH incorporates three weekends during the school holidays, so there’s plenty of time to take part.

An Easter craft workshop in Parkway is an added attraction, running 12–19 April (excluding Easter Sunday/Easter Monday on 16/17 April), and is where competition forms for the Easter Egg Hunt can be collected.

All you need to do is collect a form which will give you a series clues which guide you around the town centre – all within easy walking distance. Collect the clues, break the code and be in with a chance of winning an egg-ceedingly egg-citing prize! All forms need to be in by 5pm on 22 April, either returned to the workshop venue or posted to Newbury BID, Broadway House, 4–8 The Broadway, Newbury RG14 1BA. Great prizes await the winners, to be announced on 26 April.

Easter Treats at The Vineyard
3 and 5 April 
Something for the grown-ups in the lead up to Easter! On 3 April, 12 noon–3pm, enjoy a three course lunch with matched wines. On top of this, The Vineyard’s talented Head Pastry Chef will demonstrate how to create delicious chocolate treats, all for £60 per person.

The chocolate-making theme continues on 5 April, 6.30pm–8.30pm, with Chocolate Wine School. In an evening of pure indulgence the Head Pastry Chef will demonstrate how to create chocolate treats that are perfectly paired with wines selected by the hotel’s Head Sommelier. You’ll also be given a recipe card to recreate these treats at home. All this sumptuous chocolate plus amazing wines for £30 per person.

Easter at Shaw House
11, 12, 18 and 19 April
School holiday fun awaits at Shaw House this Easter. Specifically aimed at 4–11 year-olds, although younger/older children will be welcome, the events are: ‘Wild About Plants’ (11 and 18 April) and ‘Family Activity Days’ (make a springtime rabbit or chick on 12 April, or a cool coaster on 19 April). There will also be an Easter egg trail to enjoy. No booking required for these drop-in sessions, which are £2 per child.

Easter at West Berkshire Museum
13, 20 and 21 April

There’s creative fun to be had at the West Berkshire Museum during the school holidays, when children aged 4–11 are invited to three different drop-in crafts sessions. There’s ‘Egg Decorating’ (13 April), ‘Dress to Impress’ where you can make a top hot or Elizabethan ruff (20 April) and ‘Springtime Fun’ which involves making either a mask or wooden flower (21 April). Just £2 per child, and younger or older children are also welcome.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Celebrate with your Valentine in and around Newbury

Celebrate with your Valentine in and around Newbury

Romance is for life, not just for Valentine’s Day! But Valentine’s season in and around Newbury is pretty special, and there is no better time to make that special someone in your life feel, well, special! And with Valentine’s Day just days away, it’s time to make sure you’ve got it booked. Here’s a few ideas to melt his or her heart …

Love at first bite
Here’s four quite different local eateries with special Valentine’s menus to tickle your tastebuds, whatever your budget.

Everyone knows that both the art of love and cooking are two Frenchs specialties, so why not sample a little of ‘gay Paree’ in the heart of Newbury at Côte, centrally situated on Northbrook Street? This Valentine's season, Côte is offering a special Valentine's menu, featuring some of their best-loved dishes. Enjoy a kir royale upon arrival and choose three delicious courses from their Valentine's menu at £27.50 per person, which will include such delights as, for example, a warm tiger prawn salad to start, followed by Duck Confit à l’Orange, perhaps all rounded off with Pain Perdu – a wonderful brioche bread and butter pudding. Available from Saturday 11 February at 5pm until the end of Tuesday 14 February; this will be the only menu served after 7pm on 14 February. Tel: 01635 35315

Share a little of the romance of the country known as ‘the land of love’ at Prezzo in Cheap Street, and enjoy two or three courses and a glass of Prosecco for £19.95 or £22.95 respectively. Their authentic Italian dishes are crafted with love and you could start with mini cheese and truffle filled pasta with mushrooms and a rich mushroom stock poured over asparagus, peas and parsley; then share a special spaghetti moment with delicious king prawn spaghetti, slow cooked with spinach, red onion, red chilli and garlic in a pomodoro sauce; and finish with something suitably sweet, such as Banoffee Tiramisu, two fine desserts in one!

The Two Watermills
Based just on the outskirts of town next to Newbury College at Monk's Lane, this friendly pub is offering three courses for two people for just £25, available after 5pm 12–14 February. The menu includes: First Date Starters – such as beetroot, mascarpone and pomegranate tart; The Main Event – perhaps Cupid’s rotisserie chicken; and Happily Ever After – warm the cockles of both your hearts with jam roly poly and custard. Tel: 01635 800310

Crab & Boar at Chieveley
This really is a special treat: an exquisite 7-course tasting menu, available from 10 –14 February for dinner; £75 per person and booking is essential. Inspired by the best of the land and sea, each dish is lovingly crafted from the finest produce and you will be treated to: Champagne – Octopus & Ham Hock Amuse Bouche – Oysters – Stir-fried Prawn – Scallops Crispy Pichette – Fillet Steak Lobster Tail – Trio of Desserts. Tel: 01635 247550

A romantic getaway / afternoon tea and spa
The love of your life surely deserves a special treat, so why not splash out on a delicious afternoon tea, perhaps preceded or followed by a relaxing spa treatment … or even an overnight stay?

The Vineyard at Stockcross
The Vineyard is famed for the highest degree of elegance and style, an invites you to whisk your loved one away for an unforgettable one-night romanic Valentine's break, which includes: luxury double room; five-course tasting dinner with matched wines per course; a dozen red roses; chocolates and chilled champagne in your room on arrival; 5-star full English breakfast; morning wake-up coffee from you personal Nespresso machine; full use of The Vineyard's exclusive spa. Available Friday 10, Saturday 11 and Tuesday 14 February; £799 for tow (terms and conditions apply). 

For a day-time experience, afternoon tea is something pretty special at The Vineyard. There's serveral choices, all of which are gorgeous treats: starting at £29.50 per person, enjoy a range of finger sandwiches, cake patisserie, plus, of course, homemade scones; or add a little sparkle with a Champagne afternoon tea (prices vary depending on your choice of bubbles); but if not indulging in Champagne, for £36 per person you might choose a Lalani and Co afternoon tea, with a different tea to match each course - or turn this into a Highclere Castle afternoon tea, with the additional of a copy of Lady Carnarvon's book 'Lady Catherine and the Real Downtown Abbey' together with Lady Caranvon tea for £39.50. 

Top of tail this with an indulgent pampering treatment in The Vineyard's 5-star spa, or enjoy a luxury spa day or break to truly life the spirit of romance. Tel: 01635 896754. 

Donnington Valley Hotel 
Especially for Valentine's, Donnington Valley Hotel is offering a romantic getaway Valentine's Break. Arrive to a bootle of chilled Champagne red rose in an executive room where you can relax. Enjoy full use of the spa facilities and in the evening dine in the Wine Press restaurant before a restful night followed by a leisurely breakfast the next morning. Available Friday 10, Saturday 11 and Tuesday 14 February; £209 for two (terms and conditions apply). 

Alternatively, enjoy afternoon tea with scones freshly baked at the hotel, plus a selection of finger sandwiches, cakes and tarts, all just £15.50 per person. Add a glass of fizz for an extra treats! Served 2-5pm Sunday - Friday and 1-5pm Saturday in the bar, by the pools (or even in bed! at this 4-star hotel, just 10 minutes from Newbury town centre. Team this with one of their treatments in the spa awarded a 5 Bubbles Spa rating by the Good Spa Guide. There are many treatments to choose from, including a hot stone massage - or go all out with a full-on spa day. Tel: 01635 551199.