Monday, 21 October 2013

Biddy at the Corn Exchange

Aren’t we lucky in Newbury? Not only have we got the glorious Watermill theatre but right smack bang in the middle of town we have another wonderful performing arts venue – the Corn Exchange.

The husband and I or me and the girls get there a few times a year but yesterday I was doing a spot of shopping in my new-best-friend-shopping-town when the heavens opened. I was in the Market Place at the time and took refuge in the Corn Exchange. (I blame not having an umbrella to hand on the fact that I never did make it into the Girl Guides, so me and the term ‘Be Prepared’ are only on nodding terms.)

The Corn Exchange has such impact on the Market Place, looking both imposing and attractive. Did you know the current building – Grade II listed – opened for business as, wait for it, a corn exchange in 1862? There is more about the history of it on their website:

I hadn’t been to the Corn Exchange Café Bar for a while in the daytime (evenings are another matter altogether) so this was an ideal opportunity to grab their autumn brochure and a coffee. And what a delicious coffee it was – just the right strength, just the right size cup and incredibly good value at £1.60 (decaff Americano, no milk thank you). My only regret was that a) I’d not long had breakfast, as the bacon and sausage sandwiches sounded tempting, and b) that it was too early for lunch, as the blackboard made good reading with imaginative fillings in the wraps and sandwiches.

Anyway, the Café Bar is just a bonus as the main attraction at the Corn Exchange (and indeed at their ‘sister’ venue the New Greenham Arts studio) is, of course, their magnificent programme of events in their theatre, studio, cinema and gallery. Relaxing over my coffee gave me a good chance to study what’s up and coming over the next few months and earmark ‘must books’. So what do you fancy? There’s music to suit all tastes: from folk to Michael Bublé and Pink Floyd tributes to jazz to opera to Beethoven to The Magic of Motown (their I’ll Be There tour – and yes, I will be as I love a bit of Motown). There’s dance: from ballet to Irish dancing to all-male dance productions which sound intriguing and very energetic. There’s comedy: the regular Jongleurs nights are always fun and there are several famous names bringing their shows to Newbury. There’s theatre: from funny to moving to unusual to Shakespeare. There’s lots of things aimed at families – and an annual trip to the pantomime at the Corn Exchange is an essential pre-Christmas treat for our household. If you like a good ol’ traditional pantomime, this is the place for you. A couple of years ago we took a friend of ours: how she got to be in her 40s without ever going to a pantomime heaven only knows, but she laughed so much and so loudly (and she has a very infectious laugh) that the manager asked if she would come every night!

If you enjoy films there is an amazing, eclectic choice on offer, and I love the fact that they have special ‘Babies and Parents’ showings where no one is going to be huffing, tutting or giving disapproving glares when he or she decides to have a bawl. Check out the website or pop in to find out more about what’s on as there is so much I don’t have the space to reveal all. So much to see, so much to do ... as I said before, aren’t we lucky?

By the way, don’t forget to wish the Corn Exchange a happy birthday when you are passing. In its current lovely, inviting, vibrant and exciting format it is celebrating its 20th birthday. All together now: ‘Happy birthday to you ....’ I think you know the rest.

Biddy x

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Hethertons Bakery launches Amy's loaf

Hethertons Bakery today announced the launch of a unique new Spelt loaf, named Amy’s Loaf. The spelt loaf, containing honey and oats, has been launched to raise money for Swings & Smiles, a local charity looking to build, equip and run a recreational facility for families with special needs children. 
The loaf will be on sale from Monday 4th November.

Named after Amy Cook, the daughter of Swings & Smiles founder, Sian Cook, the loaf will retail at £2.50 with a proportion of the proceeds being donated to Swings & Smiles. Sian Cook commented: “We are so grateful to Hethertons Bakery for choosing us as the charity to benefit from their unique new spelt loaf and we hope that many of you will go to the bakery to sample this delicious new offering.”

Today also sees some exciting changes for Hethertons at The Kings Coffee House, including a relaunched menu featuring fabulous locally produced ingredients; traditional afternoon teas; longer opening hours from Monday to Saturday, and for the first time, they will be opening on Sundays offering a great Sunday brunch menu. Hethertons are also pleased to announce that you can now enjoy a glass of wine or local beer with your meal having been granted an alcohol license.

Sue and Mark Hetherton said of the changes: “'We are delighted to be teaming up with Sian and the Swings & Smiles team and very much hope that through our loaf, our cupcake competition to help us launch Amy's cupcake, and various other ideas we have for the future, that we can do our bit to help an extremely worthwhile cause. We are also very excited about our new menu and that we are now able to offer our customers a small range of wines, spirits and locally produced beer and cider with their food. Our bread has always been produced using locally grown flour and we are now extending that ethos to the food and drink we offer and working with local produces and suppliers as far as possible.”

Hethertons Bakery is a family run business, founded originally in the 1980s by Mark and his father in law Fred. They then sold the bakery and Mark went on to enhance his baking skills whilst working for Le Grand Moulins de Paris alongside some of France’s most gifted bakers. In 2002 the bakery came up for sale again and Mark, with the support of his wife Sue, snapped it up, restored it to its former glory and started producing top quality breads and confectionery using locally grown wheat. Then in 2004 Mark and Sue decided that the 17th Century building on the Broadway known as The Kings Coffee House should be revived as a coffee shop and transformed it into the warm and welcoming environment that it is today.

Swings & Smiles was founded in 2007 to provide indoor and outdoor opportunities where children, young people, their families and carers can play together without the pressures, limitations and risks often experienced in wider community situations for families with special needs children.

Come down to Hethertons@The Kings Coffee House on The Broadway on 4th November between 8am and 4pm to sample the new loaf and canapés from the new menu. A percentage of proceeds from all sales made between 8am and 4pm on Monday 4th November will be donated to Swings & Smiles.

There will be a special cake cutting ceremony at 11am to be attended by the Mayor of Newbury (TBC), Amy Cook, Sian Cook, Sue and Mark Hetherton.