Ruthie Collins, founder of Cambridge art salon, gives her arty picks of the month
No animal, according to the rules of animal etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter,” wrote Kenneth Grahame in Wind in The Willows. It’s December, and with a general election adding to an already crazed time of year, Good Government, Bad Government is a timely show. A collaboration from Michael Johnson and Frank Creber, it articulates the tensions impacting us all in relation to political infrastructure. It’s at the Alison Richard Building, home to thought provoking arts programmes throughout the year; find it on West Road at the Sidgwick Site.
One thing the show addresses is what happens to communities when trust in democracy breaks down. Both a testament to community spirit and an exploration of darker sides of humanity, with the title referencing the Lorenzetti murals in Siena, the works in the show take everyday scenes from both East Anglia and East London and are often punchy, bold and guttural. The exhibition runs until 20 December.
Mill Road Winter Fair is a reminder of the strength we can find in community spirit
It’s easy to forget the good stuff in winter. It’s frantic. Exhausting. The cracks in our country loom ever greater. But Mill Road Winter Fair on Saturday 7 December is an annual reminder of the strength we can all find in community spirit. Kick-start your month with its thousands of visitors and a never-fail fix of festive cheer. It’s the perfect time to meet artisans and makers face to face, too, with an abundance of stalls throughout. Artist Andy Little has some excellent cards on offer for all the satirically-minded hedonists out there (Christmas is a party season, right?).
This range of ‘magic dust’ inspired cards stars Santa and reindeer duo, Fatz and Red, with strictly adult content; a must for those who might be amused by the rampant pastiche of Christmas. Look out for his comic, too, exploring their adventures on magic dust; taking a dig at the often crass commercialisation of Christmas. “I like to experiment,” says Andy, whose influences include satirical illustrator and long suffering friend of Hunter S Thompson, Ralph Steadman. “I use photography to find textures to use in the colouring in of my cartoon characters.” Find Andy’s work at the Argyle Street Housing cooperative, plus at The Haymakers pub in Chesterton.
Ironworks artist in residence Hilary Cox will be at the fair with community historian Helen Weinstein, too. “Come along and find out how you can join in with the creative, historical and environmental happenings locally – sharing our local history and stories through Ironworks’ fringe green spaces, creating artwork together and our blue plaque project,” says Hilary. “Helen and I look forward to seeing you!”
Also massive on festive spirit for anyone looking to renew faith in good cheer is the fabulous Winter Warmer at Rowan, a firm must for your diaries. This arts centre for those with learning difficulties is based on Humberstone Road, and throws one of the best Christmas art parties of the season. Taking place on Wednesday 4 December, running from 5pm to 8pm, there are gifts and cards for sale, all made at Rowan, along with the chance to make your own decorations, plus live music, mulled wine and the mandatory mince pies.
Watch out for The Hummingbirds, an all-female a cappella quartet, performing there; their harmonies give new entrancing life to classics, so will not fail to lift the spirits and shimmer a little festive sparkle into the darkest of corners. For anyone who has queued up to enjoy carols on Christmas Eve at King’s College Chapel, you may also know that King’s choirboys perform over the road in the Copper Kettle each year in the morning – amazing. But The Hummingbirds entice with a magic of their own.
Finally, don’t forget to put Wind in the Willows at Cambridge Junction into your diaries. This festive production of Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale is from Figs in Wigs, a female-led performance company, and looks set to be a treat, opening on 11 December.
“Following the success of New International Encounter’s Snow White last year, we’re excited to be making this year’s Christmas show with the hilariously smart Figs in Wigs,” says Matt Burman, artistic director at Cambridge Junction. “Our Christmas show is often a younger audience’s first experience of live performance and we know this is going to make people curious for more.
“And for your seasonal theatre treat who could resist Figs in Wigs as all your familiar animal friends from the Wild Wood, in a bang-up-to-date new chapter of Wind in the Willows?”
Who indeed? Enjoy it, all.