Image: Audley End House and Gardens hosts outdoor theatre this month
Ruthie Collins gives you the lowdown on arty happenings around Cambridge in August
Menna van Praag’s new novel, The Patron of Lost Souls is sure to delight her fans. As award-winning novelist Kate Mosse says her books are a ‘treat’. Escape into the world of Jude, owner of Gatsbys, a Cambridge antique shop who makes it her mission to match customers with the special something they’re missing – a talisman to bring them their heart’s desire. Jude’s own life is lonely. But, when she ‘inherits’ a niece, it’s set to get a lot less lonely and a lot more adventurous.
With many of her novels based in the city, Menna draws inspiration from its magical qualities – its cobbled streets, dreamy spires and colourful characters. “Every book I write is a tribute to a Cambridge location I love,” she explains. “This one was inspired by Catesbys on Green Street, a place that brought me much beauty, comfort and inspiration. I miss it still!”
Cambridge is one of those places where the beauty of the natural world collides with creative imagination and major scientific breakthroughs all the time. Those seeking a show where this is happening should head over to New Hall Art Collection at Murray Edwards College for Reproductivities – a collaborative exhibition that explores connections between ways of reproducing life in humans, plants and art to investigate the cultures around them.
Brimming with a variety of media, developed with world-leading researchers, the show mixes painting, photography, installations, short films – even horticulture and performance art. It runs until November. Look out for Gina Glover’s photography – known for its incendiary qualities. Glover co-founded London’s Photofusion Photography Centre and has a clutch of awards to her name, including the Royal Photographic Society’s Hood Medal. Her work ranges from playful explorations of the biomedical sciences to long-term studies of anthropogenic landscapes – see ginaglover.com.
Also exhibiting at Reproductivities is Camilla Lyon, whose works were created in response to Murray Edwards’ garden. Like many college gardens, it’s a gorgeous delight and it grows 8,000 plants a year in its heated propagator, while New Hall holds Europe’s biggest collection of contemporary art by women. Go find pieces by art activists the Guerrilla Girls, Bridget Riley, plus feminist art hero Mary Kelly – whose early donations of works started the Collection. Remember to enjoy the garden – there’s a Barbara Hepworth.
“Biggest collection of contemporary art by women"
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy art or performance in a grand, natural setting and our area has no shortage of historical beauty spots. Why not visit Audley End during August for performances from Chapterhouse Theatre Company – take your pick from Alice In Wonderland and Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Sounds divine.
Those looking for an under-the-radar art find, make a beeline for KATO at Espresso Library before 7 August. Pop into Cambridge’s most high-end hipster café, not just for perfect coffee and plant-based food, but also a stunning sample of mixed media works that celebrate Kato Catling’s life’s work. Fusing poems with paintings, his assemblages really show what a little dash of maverick perspective can create from a range of material. Highly recommended.
“I’d seen Kato’s show at Gallery 9 and was blown away. It’s nice to see his work out for longer,” says curator Loukas Morley. “Lovely works on wood, resourceful use of materials, oil paintings on tracing paper. He’s one of those below-the-radar artists, so this is a real opportunity – it’s good to document his work now. We’ve always enjoyed it.”
There’s an interactive element to the show too – with visitors very much encouraged to go and find poems hidden inside the boxes on show. Sometimes, you need to go and seek your own inspiration.
Finally, if you’re looking for the perfect day trip from Cambridge (bring the kids!) then come and visit Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery this month, where I’ll be writing in situ, working on my murder mystery series at The Paston Treasure exhibition.
I’ve been a fly on the wall at the museum, researching my lead detective character – a female museum curator – talking with curator Francesca Vanke. With a mystery painting at its heart, The Paston Treasure, one of the most important depictions of a schatzkammer (a cabinet of treasures), the exhibition is full of interactive fun. Happy holidays all!