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Arts & Entertainment

Mantonfest to keep Marlborough music fans rocking

Jo PeskettJo PeskettAvebury Rocks might be gathering moss and OneFest is GoneFest – for this year, at least  – but one local festival will be keeping crowds rocking this summer. 

The organisers of Mantonfest are promising an event “bigger and better than ever before.”

Twelve acts have been confirmed, with some familiar favourites included such as the stunning voice of young Jo Peskett - who performed for the Queen when the monarch visited Salisbury on her Diamond Jubilee tour – along with the popular Skedaddle and last year’s headliners Straight Six all returning.

Fresh faces can be seen in the additions of Swindon’s finest Josie and the Outlaw, who describe themselves as a ‘rock’n roll’ package, filled with ‘a whole lot of soul’.

The experienced indie pop band, the NewQuay Times, and American Punk Rock tribute band All Cramped Up have also been added to the list of talent on show.

Music director Stuart Whant said the event was “all about putting the fun back in fundraising”.

The event takes place on Saturday, June 29 at the Manton Grange water meadows in Preshute Lane and will run from noon through to 10.30pm.

The festival will be compered by BBC Radio Wiltshire, and proceeds go to Wiltshire Air Ambulance and the Manton Village Hall.

Official sponsors include Barbury International, Manton Grange Estate and Marlborough Town Council.

Advance tickets cost £10 for adults, £5 for children under 12, a free for under fives, and are available from Sound Knowledge. For more information log on to

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Suffragettes to return to Marlborough

Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of Jill MorisonPhotograph reproduced with the kind permission of Jill MorisonOne hundred years after women marched through – and were attacked in - Marlborough en route to London to demand the vote, a group of artists are to re-enact the pilgrimage.

In July 1913, women marching to from Land's End to London to protest for the vote passed through five Wiltshire towns: Corsham, Chippenham, Calne, Marlborough and Swindon.

Part of what eventually became known as The Great 1913 Suffrage Pilgrimage – which culminated in a rally in Hyde Park on 26 July attended by 75,000 people – the women were often subject to a hostile reception by anti-suffragists. 

In Marlborough their wagon was overturned and they had to be rescued by police.

To celebrate the centenary of the pilgrimage, Dreadnought South West Association – a new organisation that works with arts and heritage to champion women’s voices and stories – will tour a new play, Oxygen, written by Exeter-based playwright Natalie McGrath, along the same route as the pilgrimage. 

As well as commemorating the courage of all those who participated, the project also seeks to raise awareness of the fact that the core reasons driving the fight for women to gain the vote – to end child poverty, to end the slave trade, and to end sweated labour – concern issues that are relevant today.

As well as the full-length play and pop-up ‘episodes’ taking place both indoors and out, the project is accompanied by a series of commemorative land journeys, and will showcase a diverse range of responding arts and heritage events.

The play visits Marlborough Town Hall on Wednesday, July 17 from 7.30pm. Tickets, priced £12 and £8 are available from

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Embroiderers meet, compete and admire St John's students' work

Embroiderers – many making a distinctly contemporary use of their skills – came from across the region when the Marlborough & District Embroiderers Guild hosted the South West Regional Festival at St John’s Academy on Saturday (May 18). Over two hundred members and guests attended – representing eighteen local Guilds.

Cas Holmes Cas Holmes Cas Holmes gave the Madeira sponsored lecture on Urban Nature. Her work relates to the natural and built world and uses found materials, domestic fabrics and gathered objects. We saw slides of her installations and she explained the inspiration behind them and their construction. She was also promoting her new book Connected Cloth.

In the afternoon, Patricia Godwin from the Palm Court Theatre gave a talk entitled Anything Goes. She entertained us with her tales – from Edwardian elegance to the roaring 20's.

She has collected clothes from these periods together with newspapers and periodicals. As each garment was displayed she read snippets from these papers relating to those who would have worn them.

One of the Festival’s highlights was an exhibition by Year Ten textile students at St John’s put on by head tutor of textiles, Katie Griffin. The project was organised especially for this Festival Day.Katie Griffin of St John'sKatie Griffin of St John's

Students took digital photos around the school and these images were then printed onto calico and then stitched into designs.  The organisers declared the results to be ‘amazing’.

Festival guest Jane Lemon, an embroiderer with an international reputation who has created altar frontals for Salisbury Cathedral, viewed the students’ work and was delighted with what they were achieving.

First Prize: Red Sky at NightFirst Prize: Red Sky at NightThe main competition of the day was for embroidery on the theme of ‘Superstition’.  It was won by Lindsey Sherwood of the Marlborough Guild with her striking piece ‘Red Sky at Night’.

One of the Urchfont Manor QuiltsOne of the Urchfont Manor QuiltsThere was an exhibition of quilts from Urchfont Manor College. The present owner gave them to the Marlborough & District Guild and its chairman, Yvonne Miles, thought it was appropriate for them to be displayed as many of the members at the Festival had attended courses at the Manor.

Urchfont Manor College was a residential education college set up by Wiltshire Council in 1946.  It was closed and sold earlier this year as part of the Council’s cuts.

Details of the regular meetings of the Marlborough and District Embroiderers Guild appear in our What's On calendar.

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Crofton Beam Engines to chug away for moonlight event

Crofton at nightCrofton at nightCrofton Beam Engines will be pumping away throughout the evening on Saturday, May 18 for a special event run as part of the Museums At Night initiative.

The annual UK-wide festival, funded by the Arts Council, sees hundreds of venues throwing open their doors after hours, to encourage visitors into museums, galleries and heritage sites.

And Crofton will be joining venues across Europe in running an evening event, as the UK initiative runs in parallel with La Nuit Des Musées, which takes place across the continent.

Extra illuminations and lights shows are promised to visitors. The event starts at 6pm and runs until 10pm.

Crofton houses the world’s oldest working beam engine – a Boulton and Watt engine installed in 1812. Alongside it is a second ‘younger’ beam engine made by Harvey & Co installed relatively recently – in 1846.

The station started work in 1809 pumping water up to the canal’s highest level – the section between Crofton and Burbage, which was above any reliable local water source.

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Singing sensation takes another step towards stardom

Rachel AllderRachel AllderTeenage singing sensation Rachel Allder has taken another step towards performing onstage at the 02 Arena in London, in a competition which aims to find Britain's next big music star.

Rachel (13), who performs under the name Rea, flew through the regional finals of the Teen Star competition at Fareham last Saturday, with a self-arranged acoustic version of the dance anthem Titanium by vocalist Sia and producer David Guetta, which reached number 1 in the charts in 2011.

The St John's schoolgirl will now compete at the regional final at the Guildhall Theatre in Portsmouth on Saturday, May 18.

And success on the south coast will win Rachel, who lives in Burbage, a place in the final at the 20,000-capacity 02 Arena in London in front of a judging panel made up of big names from the music industry.

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The Queen is coming to Marlborough

Helen Mirren is The QueenHelen Mirren is The QueenThe Queen is coming to Marlborough, as Kennet Valley Arts Trust prepares to bring world class live theatre to the Town Hall, via the magic of the big screen.

On Thursday, May 16, Marlborough Downs Live will stream This House, by James Graham, live from the National Theatre, followed by The Audience, broadcast from the Gielgud Theate in the West End, starring Helen Mirren, on Thursday, June 13.

Jo Del Mar, of Kennet Valley Arts Trust, explained: “The idea to live screen theatre, opera and ballet was initiated by KVAT looking to develop its current film audience  and provide an alternative cultural offering.

“We hope people will attend and show support for what KVAT is providing for Marlborough.

“The longer term plan is to provide a cinema in Marlborough and with evidence  that audience numbers are increasing for film and live screening, KVAT can prove a need for a cinema.”

Full event details can be found on our What's On calendar.


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Second Marlborough series of Brilliant Young Pianists goes international

Photo: Rainer KoehlPhoto: Rainer KoehlAt the age of five she was accepted at Moscow’s renowned Gnessin School of Music. In November the young Russian pianist Anna Zassimova will be playing at St Peter’s Church, Marlborough in the second series of Brilliant Young Pianists.  

She will be one of the second series’ virtuoso pianists each of a different nationality and all from the new generation of international recital stars.

Made possible with renewed sponsorship by Oare businessman Robert Hiscox and Hiscox Insurance, the series will present four young pianists and a recital by Charles Owen who has worked with Dr Nick Maurice to secure these top-flight performers.

Like the first series – which ends on June 30 with a recital by twenty very young Suzuki piano students from London – the second series will be put on by Dr Maurice and David Du Cros of the St Peter’s Trust. The Marlborough Brandt Group and the Peter’s Trust will share the proceeds.

For these recitals St Peter’s holds about 180 people. And it has a Yamaha grand piano that draws praise from performers and audiences alike.  It was reconditioned by Bath Pianos before the first Brilliant Young Pianists series.

The first series has proved very popular – for one concert extra chairs had to be put out, but no one was turned away.  The audience has been drawn from as far away as Guildford.

Leading off the second series on Sunday, September 29 will be the outstanding young Chinese-American pianist Jessica Zhu.  Born in Shanghai, she moved with her family to Texas when she was eleven.  

She made her orchestral debut in 2006 playing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 3 with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. In 2011 she won warm praise for her Wigmore Hall debut.

She is currently on a Fellowship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama studying under Paul Roberts and Ronan O’Hora. Go to her website to hear Jessica playing.

The second recital in the new series (Sunday, November 10) will be by the young Russian virtuoso Anna Zassimova.  She gave her first public recital aged fourteen and a year later gained the certificate of honour at the 1st Chopin Competition for Young Pianists in Moscow.

She has played with Moscow Philharmonic Society and given solo and chamber music concerts in Minsk, Prague, London and Warsaw.

In 2009 she released a CD of ‘Russian music at the turn of the twentieth century’ under the title ‘Forgotten Melodies’. In 2011 she followed it with her CD featuring a variety of Chopin’s piano music, and last year with a recording of Brahms sonatas for clarinet and piano.

For a preview of this virtuoso pianist you can hear – and watch – Anna playing Chopin’s Polonaise No 1 in C sharp minor Op. 26 in the Baroque splendour of the Kloster library at Bad Schussenreid.

The audience at St Peter’s Church on Sunday, January 26 will hear the young Azerbaijani pianist Gunel Mirzayeva (pictured left). Now aged twenty-six, Gunel was born in Baku, Azerbaijan.  She is based in London.  In 2006 she began her Bachelor of Music studies under Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and is now studying there for a Master’s degree.  

Gunel is especially interested in Bach’s keyboard music. She has performed throughout Europe – including performances at the House of Commons and the Barbican Hall.  On her website you can read her repertoire and hear her play.

The next concert (Sunday, March 9) will be a break from the Brilliant Young Pianists, featuring a slightly older brilliant pianist who started out as a young pianist in Marlborough:  Charles Owen.Charles OwenCharles Owen

He was the founder of the St Peter’s Brilliant Young Pianists series and at some time has taught all the pianists in the second series except Anna Zassimova.

Charles first played in Marlborough when he was nineteen.  He is now firmly established as one of Britain’s foremost concert pianists and is Professor of Piano at the Guildhall School.

He wants to give his most brilliant students the chance to perform before the kind of Marlborough audiences he relished when he was starting out as a solo recitalist.

The final recital of the second series (Sunday, May 11) will be given by the South African born pianist Ben Schoeman (pictured left) who is already regarded as one of his country’s foremost pianists. Ben received his Master of Music (cum laude) from the University of Pretoria.

He is now studying for his doctorate at London’s City University and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama under Christopher Wiley and Ronan O’Hora. He has played in many of the most prestigious concert halls from Lisbon to Berlin via the Wigmore and Barbican halls.

There is more about him on his website and hear him and cellist Anzél Gerber play Strauss’ Sonata for Cello and Piano in F Major Op 6.

That’s another outstanding musical festival for Marlborough – with five dates for the diary and all of them full of promise.

In our What’s On calendar Marlborough News Online will carry details of the programme for each recital and when tickets go on sale - as soon as they are known

(Click on photos to enlarge them.)

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