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: http://www.cornexchangenew.com/about/cornexchange.
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.