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Arts & Entertainment

Comedy company to perform in Marlborough during Ken’s Christmas Crusade

Actors Thomas Jones and  Nikolai Ribnikov as Ken and SteveActors Thomas Jones and Nikolai Ribnikov as Ken and SteveThey want to tread the boards, but first comedy theatre troupe Velvet Trumpet must fundraise one step at a time in a bid to finance their next play.

Actors Thomas Jones and Nikolai Ribnikov will be performing in Marlborough on a marathon walk along the A4 from London to Swansea under the personas of an enthusiastic but misguided old man, Ken, and his less eager friend, Steve.

The pair will be undertaking the 200 miles trek – Ken’s Christmas Crusade – in just under a week, in a bid to raise funds for the company's next play, Don’t Disturb the Driver. And they'll be performing, recording and broadcasting comedy sketches along the way.

Don't Disturb the Driver is a comedy set in a Swansea coach station about a young coach driver, Will, who is about to become the UK's youngest driver to reach one million miles of service.

In the play, Will drives the Swansea to London route so Thomas and Nikolai decided to make the same journey.. on foot. Starting in Windsor on December 16, they'll stop in a different town on each consecutive day, including Reading, Marlborough, Chippenham, Bristol, Chepstow, Cardiff and Bridgend, arriving in Swansea on Christmas Eve.

Nikolai told Marlborough News Online the fundraising stunt was necessary in a difficult financial climate.

“The arts are taking a massive financial hit. Those that suffer most are invariably the small independent theatres and companies, ourselves included. 

“Does that make us want to stop producing work? No. Does it make us believe any less in what we do? Of course not.

“Money may be in short supply but the creativity of the theatre community certainly isn't,” he said.

To find out more about Velvet Trumpet and Ken’s Christmas Crusade, log on to www.velvettrumpet.co.uk

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Christmas exhibition and sale at drawing centre

Work on paper by Breon O'CaseyWork on paper by Breon O'CaseyThe renowned Rabley Drawing Centre, near Marlborough, is throwing open its doors for a sale of artistic Christmas gift ideas until December 18.

The gallery will be open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am until 4pm.

Visitors will be able to view the current exhibitions, Night for Day with paintings and prints by Tom Hammick and Significant Ground, glass sculpture by Sally Fawkes.

And there will be unique works of art for sale, with prints and works on paper by Craigie Aitchison, Martyn Brewster, Eileen Cooper RA, Tom Hammick, Sara Lee, Breon O’Casey, Victor Pasmore, Nana Shiomi, Emma Stibbon, and Sandy Sykes, Ceramics by Emily Myers and Joanna Still, and jewellery and silver by Meryl Ainslie and Sheila McDonald.

Prints are available from under £200, and ceramics and silver from £50.

For information and directions, log on to www.rableydrawingcentre.com

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Joanna's Jumbo stomps at the Savoy

Joanna MayJoanna MayThe magical relationship between humans and animals, from Disney to David Attenborough, are celebrated in a new exhibition by Wiltshire artist Joanna May.

The Iconic Animals of London Zoo will be opened at The Savoy hotel in London on Saturday (November 24) by TV wildlife presenter Michaela Strachan.

Animals residing at ZSL London Zoo, beloved to the UK public in their lifetimes, became immortalised in some of the nation's – and indeed the world's - favourite stories, such as Jumbo the elephant, who became Disney's Dumbo, and Winnipeg the bear who became A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh.

And Joanna, who had a gallery in Marlborough for eleven years and now lives and works at her gallery home in Keevil, has had exclusive permission from Disney to incorporate the images of Dumbo and Winnie-the-Pooh in this work.

Television personality, Michaela Strachan, presenter of BBC1's 2012 Autumnwatch and 2013 Winterwatch, will be introducing the paintings and talking about ZSL London Zoo's conservation and Tiger SOS campaign.

Joanna herself appeared on Springwatch 2006, sketching hares for her now renowned Zodiac Hare series.

Celebrating David Attenborough's sixty years in wildlife television is the painting Zoo Quest, named after the wildlife presenter's first major BBC TV series.

In the first episode of the 1956 series, Attenborough brought Charlie the Orangutan from Borneo to live at London Zoo to start a breeding programme.

The painting shows the inextricable link between the fame of both David Attenborough and the animals he filmed.

Winnie and Christopeher RobinWinnie and Christopeher RobinThe Queen features in two paintings: Majesty the Lion and The Queen and the Penguins. Majesty demonstrates the royal iconography of the lion and also the royal endorsement of London Zoo from Queen Victoria to the present Queen. The backdrop of the Union flag taps into national pride after the Jubilee and Olympics.

The Queen and the Penguins shows a carefree Princess Elizabeth enjoying a visit with the king penguins, her destiny and future duty in the shape of her father, George VI, reflected in the enclosure's water as well as in the name of the animals themselves.

Talking about her inspiration for the project, Joanna said: “I have thought about painting the animals of London Zoo for at least 15 years from when I was a children’s wildlife book illustrator in the 1990’s.

“I was inspired by a story of someone who visited the Zoo when he was a boy. He kept an image in his mind close to his heart of the size of his tiny little hand next to a gorilla’s.

“The gorilla reached out towards him and they touched through the meshing and it stayed with him to this day as a truly magical experience. It made me think about the amazing animals that must have been kept there over the years since Victorian times and how they must have touched the hearts of children and adults alike.”

This ape was Guy the gorilla who arrived at London Zoo on Guy Fawkes Night, 1947, hence the name. He became one of the Zoo's most loved animals.

Joanna's collectable style is inspired both by wild animals and by the bold colours of contemporary interior design. The feature colour in Zoo Quest is the orangutan's distinct fur; the king penguins in The Queen and the Penguins pick up the Queen's favourite colour, vibrant yellow, as well as the art deco style in fashion at the time.

Joanna has a long-standing love of zebras, which have been the subjects of her best selling paintings: “I never get bored of the zebra stripes natural pattern and graphic effect,” she says.

Paintings of pandas Ching Ching and Chia Chia, gifted to the UK from China in 1974, are pink bubblegum cartoon bears grown up.

JumboJumboBut the story of zoo animals are not straight forward. There are shadows of ownership and exploitation for animals in captivity.

This can be seen particularly in Jumbo, history's most famous elephant. A super star of London Zoo from 1865 to 1882, he was sold to Barnum & Bailey American Circus because the Zoo secretly could not afford to continually repair his cage after nightly 'musk' rages.

A huge public campaign to keep him ensued, but to no avail. Thousands of people saw Jumbo off on his voyage to America.

Joanna's painting – Jumbo decorated with union flag, stars and stripes, Disney's Dumbo and circus, jumbo jets and jumbo hotdog iconography - demonstrates the elephant's popularity across two continents but also that, ultimately, this naturally wild animal lived a life as both private and public property.

The Iconic Animals of London Zoo exhibits at The Savoy, London on Saturday 24 November, 11am to 11pm. For more information, visit www.joannamay.com

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Meet Mai Charissa who’s playing Marlborough’s next Brilliant Young Pianists recital

Sixteen year-old Mai Charissa Tran Ringrose gives the next recital in Marlborough’s new music series – a festival showcasing the next generation of virtuoso concert pianists.  Playing at St Peter’s church on Sunday, December 16, she’s just the talented musician to follow the hugely popular Ashley Fripp – expectations are high.

Mai Charissa was born in Ipswich to British and Vietnamese parents – and she’s had an international upbringing.  She began learning the piano in France when she was five and when the family moved to Bangkok she carried on with several inspiring teachers including  the Lithuanian pianist Artas Balakauskas.

Back in France since 2008, Mai Charissa is, her father says, ‘first and foremost a regular high-schooler at a French lycee’ – the Lycee Saint-Paul in Vannes, Brittany.  Her parents marvel at the way she fits in her piano practise and delivers great performances – as well as getting down to a ‘mass of homework’.

She’s got her Baccalauréat Anticipée exams next June – she explains the difference between the International Baccalaureat (IB) students take in Marlborough and the original, French version:

“The French Baccalauréat is in fact completely different from the IB. Unlike the IB or A levels, we can't just choose several subjects to specialise in.  We follow one of four different streams: either in the sciences, economics/social studies, literature, or management studies. However which ever stream we choose, we have to take the [first part or] Baccalauréat Anticipée in all subjects, ranging from maths to sports to philosophy!”   

Since the Marlborough recital series was announced Mai Charissa has played a concert in Hanoi and four concerts in Brittany. She’s now studying piano at the Vannes Conservatoire under the Armenian-French pianist Jean-Gabriel Ferlan.

One of Mai Charissa’s earliest musical successes was taking first prize in Thailand’s National Jazz Competition for Young Pianists – she was then nine years-old.  Marlborough News Online asked her if she still plays jazz: “My current piano professor is rather conservative and is a French and Russian music specialist, so I focus more on classical music as I want to get the most out of him!”

Mai Charissa visiting SingaporeMai Charissa visiting SingaporeAt her Marlborough recital she will be playing works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Rachmaninov and Fauré – and among those Fauré is her favourite: “I developed a real interest and liking for French late eighteenth and nineteenth century music since we moved back to France and I got to discover more about French music. Fauré was a perfectionist, polishing his music again and again, and his works are very well written and have beautiful melodic lines. The different harmonies he uses may sound a bit strange or odd or hard to appreciate at first to someone who has never listened to Fauré's music, but it doesn't take long until one's ear gets used to the very complex harmonies.”

So the Fauré Nocturne she’ll be playing at St Peter’s will be of special interest to her audience and it’s sure to be a fine and intelligent interpretation.  Asked about more modern composers, Mai Charissa comes no nearer to present day composers than Ravel: “My favourite modern composer whose music I have played is Ravel. He is from more or less from the same period as Debussy and Fauré, but Ravel's piano music is more interesting. He uses a wider range of textures and composes more contrasting pieces.”

With all the practise for recitals, her school work and her piano studies, Mai Charissa has still found time for her two other passions: ballet and competitive swimming.  

But her days are now much fuller: “Unfortunately, due to the very long school days in France and an increasing amount of homework, I have had to put ballet on hold for the moment. I have been swimming for a long time now and I still swim, and will definitely swim in the future. Even though I have a heavy schedule, swimming has always been very important, for relaxing and for competitions.”

Mai Charissa’s father, Nigel Ringrose, stresses how fortunate she has been in her piano teachers from Brigitte Merer who started her off, through her teachers in Bangkok and “Finally, here in the Morbihan [a department of Britanny], we are so fortunate to have one of France's best pianists, previously attached to the Conservatoire Superieure Nationale in Paris but now resident in Vannes.   The contribution each of these teachers has made to Mai Charissa's progress cannot be overestimated.”

Next year will see more hard practising, more concerts, more homework – and her Baccalauréat Anticipée exams: “I don't worry much about exams - as long as I manage my time well, I can prepare well for concerts and the Baccalauréat. However I am a bit worried about the French exam - the standard is quite high as it’s meant for students whose mother tongue is French.”Mai Charissa Tran RingroseMai Charissa Tran Ringrose
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The Brilliant Young Pianists series has been organised by Nick Maurice and David Du Croz with Charles Owen – the international concert pianist who has often given recitals in Marlborough and has taught most of these young players.  Funds raised will go to the Marlborough Brandt Group’s work in The Gambia and to St Peter’s Trust.

Mai Charissa’s programme and information about tickets can be found at our What’s On calendar – for 16 December 2012.  

The series concerts in 2013 will be:  January 27 – John Paul Ekins; February 17 – Mishka Rushdie Momen; April 14 – James Kreiling; June 30 – young Suzuki piano students from London.  Details of known programmes for these recitals can be found in our What’s On calendar for the appropriate dates. [NOTE: since the series leaflet was published James Kreiling and John Paul Ekins have had to exchange recital dates – they will now appear as above.]

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Elinor Goodman finds a fantastic gig in Pewsey: The Moscow Drug Club

A concert in a village hall on a wet Friday night doesn’t sound much of a ticket.

But my ticket for Pewsey’s Bouverie Hall last Friday (October 19) turned out to be the best six pounds I’d spent for years. The quality of the band was as good as anything you would find at Ronnie Scott’s in London’s Soho – thanks to a grant from Rural Arts Wiltshire which helps top musicians to play in rural locations.

The evening gig was arranged by Music Live Pewsey.

The concert opened with a performance by the Pewsey Belles, a group of about 20 women from around Pewsey who sang a melody of popular songs with some lovely harmonies, There were some really strong voices and their joy in what they were doing was infectious.

The Moscow Drug ClubThe Moscow Drug ClubThey were the curtain raiser for the main act which was a five piece band with the unlikely name of the Moscow Drug Club It’s not, of course, because they are junkies, it’s the title of a song they have made their own.  They sang a fusion of jazz and folk and other songs which defied categorisation.

The lead singer, Katya Gorrie, has a wonderfully smokey sultry voice, straight out of a German cabaret in the l930s. Alongside her was a superb trumpeter whose drooping eyes made him look as if he was completely out of it, but when he played a riff, he came to life.

The guitarist, Denny Ilett, had magic fingers too. Each musician took their turn to elaborate on the melody and disappear into their own musical world, before Katya took up the tune again.Katya Gorrie Katya Gorrie

I imagine they usually play in clubs where people dance rather than sit in rows, but they seemed to genuinely enjoy coming to Pewsey. They may well come back to the area because in the audience were talent spotters for both the Devizes festival and the Marlborough jazz festival. But it was good that Pewsey got there first.

In fact Pewsey has a very lively music scene of its own. As well as the Pewsey Belles: there is the male voice choir; Mothers’ Jam a sextet of women who sing a cappella; and a thirty strong University of the Third Age group for those who don’t read music but want some fun.

And of course there are the live bands that come to the Coopers and Pewsey’s summer Music Festival. Marlborough has its community choir as well as the choral society, but for a village its size, Pewsey has a lot to sing about.

Elinor Goodman was Channel 4 News’ Political Editor and has more recently been working in radio.  She lives in Wilton.

Music Live Pewsey’s next gig in the Bouverie Hall is on November 3 – see our What’s On calendar.

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Secret Garden recalls childhood longings

James Laurence Hunter as Dickon with Captain the fox in a scene from The Secret GardenJames Laurence Hunter as Dickon with Captain the fox in a scene from The Secret GardenReview

Watching Proteus Theatre's production of The Secret Garden (Thursday 8 November) reminded me of my own childhood longings to have a little hidden place, with a swing, roses and a wall that caught the summer's sun.

Wasn't going to happen living in a council flat (boo-hoo me). But remembering the allure of such a garden illustrated how this show captured the magic of Frances Hodgson Burnett's much loved novel.

For those (like me) who haven't read the book since a long-gone childhood, the basic story is of an angry ten-year-old Mary who arrives in a cold, wet Yorkshire from hot, dusty, exotic India, living a previously pampered but lonely life in an early twentieth century colonial household.

After her parents and servants die from cholera, Mary is taken on by her uncle who has never recovered from his own bereavement, that of his wife.

Mary is looked after by housekeeper, Martha, and makes friends with her brothers, William and Dickon, the gardener Ben and the garden's tame robin. Mary discovers the secret garden, locked up and forbidden to be used for the last ten years by Mary's uncle as it was his wife's beloved place. Mary also discovers her cousin Colin, hidden away and bedridden from a mystery illness. The sharing and caring of the secret garden brings the household together and heals the sadness that has festered for so long.

This is a wonderful production for its size. Usually in a small to mid-scale performance some part of the show suffers. But here the acting is spot on, the cast big enough, the set magical, the music performed live, and the puppetry top notch.

My six year old, who's just old enough to cope with a 7pm start, was riveted from start to finish with a look of delight and wonder, despite red tired eyes at the end. I asked him what his favourite bit was, and he said 'cawing like crows' (there was a bit of audience participation) and 'all of it'.

The highlights for me was the adaptable set - which really brought the magic alive - Captain the talking puppet fox, and the warm relationship within the cast which had me believing in a family that could be both healed by the garden and each other. The spacewok - real name 'hang drum' - that formed part of an exotic ensemble of instruments, also deserves a mention.

Kudos to director Mary Swan and her team for bringing this adaptation to the stage, and for Marlborough's Theatre on the Hill for presenting a show that truly appeals to all ages.

  • The Secret Garden will be calling at The Pound arts centre, Corsham on Thursday, Decmber 6 from 6.30pm. www.poundarts.org.uk

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Marlborough prepares to rock for Prospect

Nick Harper pictured at the Avebury Rocks festival in July 2012Nick Harper pictured at the Avebury Rocks festival in July 2012Marlborough is preparing to rock for charity as top singer-songwriter Nick Harper plays a hometown gig in aid of Prospect Hospice.

Nick, who is internationally renowned for his music, will headline a night of music at Marlborough Town Hall in aid of the Mayor's Charity for the year. 

‘Nick Harper and Friends’ will perform from 7.30pm on Friday, November 2. Nick will be supported by a number of local bands.

Tickets are £10 each and are available from Sound Knowledge in Hughenden Yard, Marlborough.

Mayor Edwina Fogg has nominated Prospect Hospice as the Mayor’s Charity for her 2012/2013 term in memory of Mike Bracey who died of pancreatic cancer in April this year. 

Mike lived in Marlborough with his partner Susie Fisher, former chairman of Marlborough Jazz Festival, and was just 60 when he died. 

Mike was cared for at Prospect Hospice in Wroughton, which provides end of life hospice care for the Swindon and Marlborough areas.

The hospice is a registered charity and relies on donations for 70 percent of its operating costs.

Ms Fisher said: ‘I am delighted that the mayor has nominated Prospect Hospice as her charity in memory of Mike.

"Working with the terminally ill is not an easy task and yet all the staff and volunteers at Prospect are always cheerful and friendly. We lost Mike to pancreatic cancer in April 2012 and while this is a devastating disease when it takes hold, the Prospect Nurses were always available for a home visit or telephone call, adjusting medication as necessary and providing much needed support and advice.

"When he was admitted to the hospice, he was comforted by their extremely efficient medical staff and the beautiful, peaceful surroundings. It is an incredible place which deserves our support."

The charity also holds special meaning for Nick, son of the legendary folk musician Roy Harper. His mother, Monica Weston – well known locally as head teacher of St Peters Junior school in Marlborough – spent her last days at the hospice. 

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