Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

After months of endless speculation since its release date was announced, Colchester 101’s Andy Oliver was one of the very first to see the Christmas blockbuster. Here’s his review.

Star Wars

The Force Awakens is a sprawling, expansive, space-opera epic that will have Star Wars fans leaving the cinema with huge grins, empty pockets and a sense that their franchise has been rescued from the mire of the unsuccessful prequels. There’s huge star-ships, alien worlds, straight-arrow good guys, dark as night villains, laser guns, light sabres, a sense of humour, exciting battles… and a sense of familiarity that is both its strength and its weakness.

There’s a new Death Star in this movie. Starkiller* Base is not a space station this time but an entire planet, seventeen times larger than those seen in earlier movies. When I tell you this, I don’t mean it as a spoiler but a clue to where The Force Awakens sits, it’s as much a complete reboot of Episode IV: A New Hope as it is a sequel, played on a vastly expanded scale. There’s lots of familiar plot beats, but with a twist on them: There’s not a princess hiding a secret in a droid, but an X-Wing pilot; the central hero lives on a desert planet but she’s not happy about leaving it; there’s a Stormtrooper dressed as a rebel; there’s a villain dressed all in black who’s… well, that would be telling.

Star Wars

There’s also moments you’ll recognise from Episodes V an VI (Empire and Return of the Jedi): A small group of rebels have to knock out a shield generator so the main force can attack the Super Death Star; there’s a cantina scene; a forest planet; an ice planet; stuff too spoilery to go into. Some of the scenes feel more like forced attempts to crowbar in familiar concepts and conceits than an attempt at organic story telling. The sense of magic, of discovery that the original movies shared is missing here. Whilst some may welcome this forced familiarity, those looking for new, weird worlds to explore will probably be mildly disappointed.

Star Wars

But, while the plot feels rather under-nourished and a bit “been there, seen that”, the characters deliver on a massive scale, especially the new ones and they are the best reason for revisiting this series again. Like Luke, Han and Leia in the original trilogy, Rey, Finn and Poe are the reason you’ll want to come back. For every too-on-the-nose callback to the originals there’s a great character moment from one of these guys that make you smile from ear-to-ear at how magical and alive these characters feel.

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac from Inside Llewyn Davis and Ex Machina) is the first of the new heroes we meet. Dameron is a straight-arrow good guy, an X-Wing pilot version of a Nicholas Sparks leading man: he’s good to his friends and robot and probably sands down boats with his shirt off. A lesser actor might seem a little Dudley Do-Wright in the role, but Isaac plays him with just the right balance of a square jawed man of action and vulnerability; a good old-fashioned, two-fisted pulp hero.

Star Wars

Attack The Block’s John Boyega plays Finn, a character cursed to give a damn. Finn is originally FN 2187, a Stormtrooper who refuses to do the wrong thing and finds himself turning from The First Order (as the successors to the Empire are now called, I don’t know why, hey, I thought the rebels won at the end of Jedi) and fighting for the Rebel Alliance. He’s equal parts heroic, terrified and full of bluster and steals the majority of the film’s funny moments.

If the original trilogy made stars of relative unknowns Hammill, Ford and Fisher, then Daisy Ridley (as Rey) emerges as the new star of The Force Awakens. Rey is very much the emotional centre of the movie, abandoned on the backwater desert planet, Jakku, as a child by her family and terrified to leave in case she misses her chance at reunion. It is her compassion and the compassion she receives from others that sets her free. She’s the movie’s single-most capable and self-sufficient character and, although her story arc feels a little rushed, you feel the whole saga will pivot upon her. Ridley is great and her on-screen chemistry with John Boyega is worth the ticket price alone.

Star Wars

Of the returning characters Harrison Ford has the lion’s share of the screen time and looks like he’s finally having fun again. Han and Chewie are back in the smuggling game but the Empire and The Force are not done with him yet. Carrie Fisher’s General Leia is basically reduced to standing at the central command console at the rebel base, which is a shame and a waste. The first line of the usual screen-crawl states, “Luke Skywalker is missing”, so don’t expect too much of Hammill and what there is is eye-rollingly predictable.

But it’s Adam Driver (another Llewyn Davis alumni and Frances Ha) as the central bad guy, Kylo Ren, who really steals the show. Where Rey, Finn and Poe feel like Star Wars characters, written with bold strokes, Ren is psychologically underpinned in complex and thrilling ways. He’s a man drawn to the dark side of The Force, praying to Darth Vader to resolve the conflict within him; he wants to be consumed by darkness but the light won’t let him go. He’s petulant; his confidence is illusory, a mask behind which his lack of self-esteem festers. He’s a furious ball of emotions, scary and sympathetic and, when the mask is off, he’s a cauldron of conflict. Where George Lucas failed with Anakin in the prequels, Driver triumphs.

Star Wars

Director JJ Abrams keeps The Force Awakens moving along at a cracking pace, but ultimately it is the dearth of new ideas that holds it back from being a great movie. Too often it riffs on the original trilogy’s action and emotional beats and refuses to be its own beast.

Ultimately, how you feel about The Force Awakens will depend on how invested you are in Star Wars lore, die-hard fans will probably love it, but there’s a little too much fan service for the casual viewer.

*George Lucas’ original name for Luke Skywalker was Starkiller, apparently


Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver

Colchester Classics – Classical music picks for January

Our classical music columnist Liz Leatherdale, founder and owner of Colchester Classics, brings you her pick of January’s classical music events in and around Colchester


Haydn’s Cello Concerto

In January 2016, Laura van der Heijden, BBC Young Musician of the Year 2012, performs Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D with the Colchester Symphony Orchestra conducted by Chris Phelps. Laura gave her debut performance with this orchestra in 2013 in a breath-taking reading of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. The following year she returned to perform the achingly beautiful and emotionally demanding Cello Concerto by Elgar. Having heard her at both of these concerts I can imagine that there will be high demand for tickets. Saturday 16 January at 7.30pm in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester.

Laura van den Heijden began playing the recorder at the age of 4, achieving Grade 8 Distinction in both Cello and Piano by the age of 10!  Since becoming the BBC Young Musician of the Year, Laura has performed regularly as a soloist with a range of prestigious orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the London Mozart Players.

Tickets: £3 – £14. 01206 271128 or email


Mozart’s Requiem

On Saturday 30 January, the University of Essex Choir accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra perform Mozart’s Requiem. Composed during the last year of Mozart’s life it is one of his most popular works, although the question of how much of the music Mozart managed to complete before his death and how much was later composed by Sussmayr or others is still debated. Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall, University of Essex. Saturday 30 January 2016 at 7pm.

Tickets: £5 – £20. 01206 393293


If you have a forthcoming concert of classical music, you would like previewed, contact Liz Leatherdale on 0800 999 6994.

Start your love affair with Classical Music at and take a minute to watch their company video:

Liz Leatherdale

Liz Leatherdale


Get your skates on!

After months of waiting it was finally happening, the Gala Opening Night of Colchester’s first ever Winter Wonderland and Ice Rink was about to get under way, and the man behind it all, Ben Payne, had kindly invited Colchester 101 along for the evening. And what an evening it was to be!

Winter Wonderland

After entering Castle Park, an area I know so well, we made our way round to the side of town’s Norman castle where our first site of the upper park’s transformation awaited us. Right there, in the shadow of the castle, as promised, was an ice skating rink, looking more magical than we could have imagined, and certainly over delivering on our expectations.



After spending a while taking in the sight we made our way into the bar and skate hire area where a glass of Prosecco awaited us, before we set off to the rear of the castle to explore the rest of Winter Wonderland with its market stalls offering everything from hog roast, pizza, crepe/coffee and burgers to speciality fudges, Aspalls cider, custom printed Santa sacks, and The Bear Garden where young and not so young alike can build their own teddy bears. There is even a Colchester United Club Shop.


After a ride on the carousel and a quick go down the helter skelter it was time to make our way back to the rink for the official opening, with speeches from Ben Payne and Colchester’s deputy mayor Julie Young, followed by breath taking skating displays from television’s Dancing on Ice stars Vicky Ogden, Frankie Poultney and Mark Hanretty, followed by skilful performances from local skaters.

Then it was our turn!

Now, my family moved to Canada when I was an infant and I was ice skating almost as soon as I could walk, so this should have been easy, right? Wrong. I haven’t been on skates for many years and, unlike riding a bicycle, I had forgotten how to do it. But I got out there and gave it my best shot and was pleasantly surprised that I could at least make it round the rink, albeit with a little bit of wall hugging, and with each circuit it got easier and my confidence grew. Even a hard fall, which resulted in a sore knee for a couple of days, didn’t put me off, and before long I was feeling pretty pleased with how I was doing. On my travels I spied Will Quince, Colchester’s MP, and Councillor Darius Laws making their way onto the ice, and both looking suitably nervous. Soon they were off, with Will showing what a good sport he is skating lap after lap with the rest of us, but it was Darius who was the revelation, quickly finding his confidence and putting in laps that reminded me of James Caan in Rollerball.


A little later, after a near fall brought about by overconfidence – although I was very proud that this time I managed to save myself as I began to stumble – it was time to leave the ice and return to the bar for a couple of pints of German lager before heading home after a fantastic fun filled night. Ben and his team have worked wonders, not only with the transformation of the park and the building of the ice rink and other attractions over the past few weeks, but also the months of hard work that have gone into planning and getting the necessary permissions to put on this event that runs right through December and Christmas until January 2016.


There’s a real buzz about Colchester in recent times, with events like the annual August Free Festival in Castle Park being extended to Sunday as well as Saturday, the change in fortunes at Firstsite under the leadership of Anthony Roberts, the Halloween festivities on the High Street which included a stunning 3D image-mapping show beamed onto the Town Hall, Colchester United putting on superstars like Elton John and Lionel Richie at the Community Stadium, all bringing people into our town for pleasure, as well as to work and to shop. And now we have the Winter Wonderland and Ice Rink to add to the list of why Colchester is such a great place to live.

One thing is for sure, I will be back for another go on the ice before too long, and I hope that this will become an annual event for the town and will grow as the years go by.

Winter Wonderland & Ice Rink is open from 10am to 10pm until 3rd January 2016. Tickets can be bought on their website.






Simon Crow


Colchestersoup is a simple idea based on a concept that has its origins in Detroit, USA. Karen Taylor tells us all about it

Colchester Soup Logo

3 pitchers, 2 soups, 1 winner

When we were asked to produce around 500 words it seemed a lot. So we decided to put 500 into a bit of perspective.

500 = half as many followers as we have on Twitter

500 = twice as many likes as we have on Facebook

500 = an eighth of the amount of money raised by Colchestersoup

500 = as many people as we hope to ultimately reach on soup nights

500 = the amount of money we’d like to ultimately raise on an average soup night

We started out with an idea, shamelessly copied from Detroit Soup. We watched it in action at Southend Soup.

On a soup night the local community comes together to donate a suggested £5 at the door. For this they receive soup, a roll and most importantly a vote.

Colchester Soup Bowls

In addition there are an amazing number of people who just want to hear or help something positive.

3 local people/groups talk about their idea that may help the community. They get 5 minutes to talk. There are no electronic aids to their talks, and then they get 5 minutes to answer questions.

That’s all the time they have to convince the audience that their idea deserves to win however much money has been taken as door donations.

As they collect and eat very good soup the votes are cast. Much discussion of the various groups goes on around the tables before people make their final decision. Each soup night provides three very different pitchers.

Following soup both the winners and their winnings are announced. As Colchestersoup has built up winnings have gone from a not insignificant £195.20 to £367 in July and £2000 from one councillor towards his own version of soup.

Colchester Soup Cycle

Pitchers and winners so far have been (winners in bold)

Papworth Trust – needed some money for PR to let people know they’re in the Colchester area

Friends of St Botolphs – needed money for a planter, but more importantly wanted volunteers to come forward

Go4 Enterprises – wanted money for a survey of a boat that they’re hoping to put on the Colne to provide training and pop-up cafes/entertainment


Essex Feminist Collective – needed money for ongoing activities including education in schools, more importantly wanted to raise awareness of what they do

Castlegate Day Care Centre- needed money to replace a ‘decrepit’ kiln

Essex Raynet – needed money towards a new aerial to be installed on Colchester Stadium


Colchester 3D Creative – needed money towards a London show for the students from the institute

Colchester Wildcats – needed a small amount for PR (they were prepared to share winnings) but more importantly wanted to let people know what Korfball is

Grief Recovery Method – needed money for workbooks before starting courses in September


AutismRolo – needed money towards refurb of a Ford Transit van to be used as educational facility

Erin Summers Norman – needed money towards editing and publishing of a social commentary book

Out4Good – needed money to help support and house troubled teenagers


Caroline Rhys-Lewis – pottery equipment – camera

Kidsbacks4thefuture – educational material

Colchester Soup

And then a local councillor said he wanted to run a soup to use his £2000 community grant so another 5 groups shared that money. Spent as directed by the community.

Want to pitch? Want to come along? Next event 20th November 2015 6.30 pm Samaritans Walsingham Road, CO2 7BN

Twitter @colchestersoup


Or call 07532 253540

Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks for November

Our classical music columnist Liz Leatherdale, founder and owner of Colchester Classics, brings you her pick of November’s classical music event in and around Colchester

Handel’s Messiah

Messiah is one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music and is a set work for the current GCSE Music course. It includes much well-known music such as the Hallelujah Chorus, when the audience traditionally stands. The story goes that when King George II first heard this chorus, he was so inspired that he stood up. When everyone saw him standing, they stood too and so the tradition began!

This wonderful work is often performed and can be heard in Witham and Chelmsford over the coming weeks.

Patrick McCarthy celebrates 20 seasons as conductor of the Witham Choral Society with a full scale performance of Messiah including some of Handel’s alternative solos. Patrick will also be the bass soloist with Gill Wilson (soprano) and Elaine Henson (mezzo) and the Colchester Bach Orchestra. November 7, 7.30pm, Witham Public Hall, Collingwood Road, Witham.

Tickets from £10 (0345 017 8717 or 01621 854621)

Harlow Chorus

This year Harlow Chorus, a highly successful amateur choir of some 100 members, celebrates 40 years of choral singing. Its opening anniversary season will be a Remembrance concert including Benjamin Britten’s Agnus Dei from his War Requiem, Bob Chilcott’s Requiem and a gift commission from Paul Ayres of Bless this house, made famous by Perry Como in the 40’s. Saturday, 7 November at 7pm. St John’s Church, Epping. Next month the choir also performs Handel’s Messiah. Saturday 12 December, 7pm, Chelmsford Cathedral.

Tickets from £15 (01277 362440)

Remembrance and Thanksgiving Concert

On Sunday 8 and Wednesday 11 November our nation will pause for thought at 11am to remember and honour those who have sacrificed themselves to secure and protect our freedom.

A Remembrance and Thanksgiving Concert will take place on November 7 with the main choral work being Duruflé’s Requiem. The mood of this work, as befits a Mass for the Dead, is largely reflective and solemn with moments of great beauty. Taking a plainsong chant as a starting point Durufle used Fauré’s Requiem as a model by including important solo parts for organ, mezzo-soprano and baritone. The up and coming mezzo on this occasion will be Joanna Arnold (I recall her being the soloist in the same work with the Colchester Bach Choir in her parents’ Mayoral year).  This time Joanna will be performing with the Lexden Choral Society accompanied by the Kingfisher Sinfonietta conducted by John Chillingworth. Other works in this concert include music by Parry and Holst. St Botolph’s Church, Colchester Saturday 7 November 2015, 7.30pm.

Tickets £12

Moot Hall Organ Recital

‘We will remember them’ is the title of the next Colchester Moot Hall organ recital by Honorary Borough organist, Ian Ray. Music associated with the annual observance of Remembrance Day will be performed including the stirring Dam Buster’s March by Eric Coates and Elgar’s Nimrod from his Enigma Variations. Tuesday November 10, at 1pm, Colchester Moot Hall.

Admission is free with retiring collection in aid of The Mayor’s Charities

Halstead & District Choral Society

In which pieces of music can Handel’s most famous Hallelujah Chorus be heard? Yes, in the most well-known and frequently performed oratorio, Messiah, but he also used it in another choral work – the Foundling Hospital Anthem. Handel conducted the first performance at a benefit concert in aid of the children’s Foundling Hospital (now known as the Great Ormond Street Hospital.)

Zadok the Priest, by far the most popular of the Handel’s four Coronation Anthems, was also used in another oratorio, Esther, and it has been performed at every British Coronation since its first performance for King George II. Both the Foundling Hospital Anthem and Zadok the Priest will be sung by the Halstead & District Choral Society on Saturday November 14 at 7.30pm in St Andrew’s Church, Halstead. Tickets: £10 in advance (01787 473002) or £12 on the door

Patrick McCarthy will conduct another Handel oratorio, Judas Maccabaeus, later in the month.  Soloists Gill Wilson and Elaine Henson will perform with the Ipswich Bach Choir and Ipswich Chamber Orchestra at 7.00pm on November 21, 2015 at Ipswich School.

Tickets: £5 – £12

If you have a forthcoming concert of classical music, you would like previewed, contact Liz Leatherdale on 0800 999 6994.

Start your love affair with Classical Music at and take a minute to watch their company video:

Liz Leatherdale






Liz Leatherdale

IDM Colchester – Game Developers Event

A new initiative to put Essex on the map as the largest creative games development hub in the UK


IDM top


With only a small amount of publicity so far the first ever game developers event in Essex (on the evening of Tuesday 13th October) is proving to be extremely popular. So popular that they’ve now had to cap the amount of tickets available for the Essex Business School venue on the University Campus.

Event Details:

Date: Tuesday, 13th October 2015
Time: 6:30pm – 9pm
Venue: Essex Business School, University of Essex Campus
Speaker: Andy Touch from Unity 3D

Reserve your tickets on DoubleUpGaming

So what is it all about?

DoubleupGaming is putting Colchester and Essex on the map as the largest creative hub for the Games industry in the UK.

And this is by no means a small challenge.

There’s over *600 digital creative companies here in Colchester, as well as those self-employed individual developers who have a multiple of roles in a games industry worth in excess of *£3.9bn.

Essex is already on its way to achieving this goal, but it needs that extra nudge to bring it to the surface.

Daniel Colaianni, the founder of DoubleupGaming and local Colchester sixth form student, identified this need to unite the games industry in Essex. Since then he’s made one of DoubleUpGaming’s primary goals to make this happen.


How was IDM Colchester created?

In July, DoubleUpGaming began working with The University of Essex and the Colchester Games Hub (run by local game developer Shark Infested Custard and the EE Hub) to create the “First Ever Game Developers Event in Essex”. Thus IDM Colchester (Indie Dev Meetup) was born.

Later that month, after attending the Develop Conference in Brighton, DoubleupGaming gained an impressive list of expert industry contacts who have encouraged the IDM initiative and more importantly are happy to be special guests speakers at future events.

From this the decision was made to ensure the IDM Colchester events will be held on a quarterly basis.

IDM’s first expert speaker

Andy Touch from Unity3d will be attending as their special guest speaker for the first event on the 13th October.

This speaker is extremely profound as not only is the Unity game engine more popular amongst developers than any other game development software, over forty-seven percent of developers use Unity worldwide.

From large to small studios, even to independent professionals more and more developers moving to Unity. Some of Unity’s customers include Cartoon Network, Coca-Cola, Disney, Electronic Arts, LEGO, Microsoft, NASA, Nexon, Nickelodeon, Square, Ubisoft and Warner Bros.

Andy Touch will also be available throughout the entire evening available for any questions or advice on game development.

IDM Meet Up

The local businesses that are making this happen.

DoubleupGaming has been working with local businesses based in Colchester to kickstart the event off in spectacular way.

With sponsorship from Papa Johns Colchester, all attendees on the night will have the opportunity to enjoy tasty free pizza’s made fresh on the night.

Sponsors, The Pitfield Brewery are providing their one of a kind custom-made IDM Colchester beer for the night, (usually found within the recently opened brew house on Queen street).

Colchester technology store, Cymax Computers are also supporting the the local games industry on the night along with Illuminate Design who will be providing lighting as well.

This is a milestone event for Colchester and Essex game developers, with DoubleupGaming having a long term goal of holding an annual event in Colchester. Local businesses are at the forefront of making this sustainable.

IDM Meet Up


As, Daniel says “The development of games and the digital social media is an incredible fast-moving innovate, and creative industry which is just going to continue to grow. With each IDM Colchester event we’re going to build upon experiences learned, and to bring the very best indie dev meetups within the UK.”

You can connect and interact with IDM Colchester by using their Twitter hashtag #IDMColchester and their new facebook page: IDM Colchester facebook group.

IDM Meet Up

Onwards and upwards for the creative town of Colchester

This is not the end of the increasing amount of creativity here in Colchester.

With more and more creatives seeing colchester as a place with the right people and the right infrastructure then we can only expect to see more and more events such as these cropping up.

There is a real need and demand from local creatives and DoubleUpGaming has expressed how they want to cater for the proportion of the games industry that at the moment is hidden in the woodwork just waiting to come out.

This event may be from 6pm on the 13th of October, but be assured that from here on out there will be another one of these 3-4 times a year.

Other plans are already in motion to make this event into even more with the possibility of a yearly event which could pull in people from all over the country.
If this sounds like something that may be of interest to you or a friend, then make sure you reserve your tickets as there are only a few remaining.

Daniel Colaianni




Daniel Colaianni


IDM Banner

Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks for September

Our Classical Music columnist Liz Leatherdale, founder and owner of Colchester Classics, brings you her pick of August’s Classical Music events in, and around, Colchester.


Colne Valley Youth Orchestra

Launched in 1981, the Colne Valley Youth Orchestra provides young Essex musicians opportunities to perform in our region and also tour in Europe. On Sunday the orchestra will perform music by Brahms, Dvorak and Bizet. Special guest Will Quince MP will sing music from Les Miserables and also Nessun Dorma, the famous tenor aria from Puccini’s Turandot. Free admission with retiring collection. Sunday September 6, 3pm. Firstsite, Colchester.
Another performance at Colchester’s contemporary art gallery has been chosen by BBC Music Magazine as one of 20 unmissable events in September. The young and exciting Sacconi Quartet will give the world premiere of a string quartet by pianist and composer Gwilym Simcock within an exhibition of new canvasses by the Roman River Festival artist John Doubleday at Firstsite. Quartets by Nielsen and Sibelius complete the programme. Friday 25 September at 7.30pm Firstsite, Colchester.

Tickets from £12 (01206 729356)


Belmont Ensemble of London and the English Chamber Choir

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and other baroque favourites will be performed by the Belmont Ensemble of London and the English Chamber Choir in Chelmsford Cathedral. Saturday, September 5 at 7pm. Tickets are available for this charity concert for a suggested £20 donation to the Essex Clergy Charity.

Email for details


Another Breath of Fresh Air

‘Another Breath of Fresh Air’ is the title of a concert featuring music for wind and brass instruments composed by Peter Thorne, pianist, conductor and composer based in Frinton. Peter’s recent composition, Paean, was a runner-up in Pipeworks, Colchester’s Moot Hall Organ composition competition and the work was performed last month at a lunchtime concert during Organ Fest. Saturday’s concert includes Peter’s Showtime for Brass Quintet and Romances for flute and piano, and also unaccompanied recorder music by Van Eyck. Saturday September 5 at 4pm. Colchester Institute, Swinburne Hall, Colchester.

Tickets: £10 (01255 852502)


Roman River Festival

This month the Roman River Festival opens in an idyllic new venue in Mistley. Piano trios by Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Brahms plus Alissa Firsova’s Fantasy for Cello & Piano will be performed by Roman Simović and Tim Hugh (both London Symphony Orchestra Principals) with composer, pianist and conductor, Alissa Firsova. Thursday, September 17, 8pm. St Mary and St Michael’s Church, Mistley. Tickets: £18 (01206 241027). Alissa’s debut CD, Russian Emigres, is now available and was recently reviewed in the Colchester Gazette.

Freephone 0800 999 6994 for further details


University of Essex Choir

Open rehearsals offer potential new members the chance to sing with a choir, see how it works and meet current members. Next month the University of Essex Choir has an open rehearsal on Thursday 8 October at 7pm at the University. (Email This month Witham Choral Society will be rehearsing Handel’s Messiah on Tuesdays starting 8 September at the United Reformed Church, Newland Street, Witham at 7.45pm and all singers are very welcome

(01621 854621)


Come and Sing

The first Come and Sing event in September is Faure’s Requiem hosted by the Halstead & District Choral Society. It is one of the composer’s best known works and includes the popular soprano aria Pie Jesu. Come and Sing events often offer the opportunity to rehearse a large-scale choral work in the afternoon and present a concert in the evening. Admission for singers for this event is £8 and £5 for the audience. If you would like to join the choir for both the afternoon rehearsal (from 3pm) and the choral concert (at 7.30pm), please register asap.

Further details by ‘phone (01787 473002) or visit . Saturday, September 26 at St Andrew’s Church, Halstead


The Glories of the Moot Hall Organ

The Glories of the Moot Hall organ is the title of the Roman River Festival’s first ever organ recital. Young organist Tom Bell presents a varied programme including music by Bliss, Bridge, Duruflé and the winners from the Pipeworks competition (John Furse’s Moot Points and Mark Bellis’ Graduation Toccata). During the concert Tom will accompany the Colchester Chamber Choir in some popular music including Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine. Sunday 27 September, 5pm, Colchester Town Hall. Tickets: £12 (01206 729356). The Roman River Festival (17 September – 4 October) covers a wide range of music and actively encourages anyone under the age of 30 to enjoy concerts.

Tickets priced from £3


If you have a forthcoming concert of classical music, you would like previewed, contact Liz Leatherdale on 0800 999 6994.

Start your love affair with Classical Music at and take a minute to watch their company video:


Liz Leatherdale




Liz Leatherdale

Colchester United – A True Community Football Club

The 2015/16 Football League season begins at 3pm tomorrow with Colchester United kicking off their Sky Bet League One campaign at the Weston Homes Community Stadium against Blackpool, and fans will be hoping that this is the season where fortunes on the pitch see the club achieve the kind of success we all dream of. But there is much more to Colchester United than just the activities on the pitch, as the club’s Media Manager, Matt Hudson tells Colchester 101.

Photo by Richard Blaxall, Colchester United Football Club photographer.

Photo by Richard Blaxall, Colchester United Football Club photographer.

The new Football League season gets under way on Saturday – and Colchester United will be hoping that their on pitch record this season can reflect the off pitch successes the club has enjoyed over the past year.

The U’s will begin another campaign in League One after their dramatic late escape from relegation against Preston back in May in front of a national TV audience.

And yet it is the club’s off field activities that are starting to make headlines of their own.

The Weston Homes Community Stadium recently celebrated its 7th birthday following the club’s switch from their former home at Layer Road back in 2008.

At that time, the club was only able to trade on matchdays, had hospitality for about 30 people and no opportunity to make additional revenues.

Photo by Richard Blaxall, Colchester United Football Club photographer

Supported by Colchester Borough Council with funding for the construction of the 10,000 all-seater Weston Homes Community Stadium, the club was charged with making the stadium a true community hub and figures from 2014 show that we have made significant headway in recent years.

Over 260,000 people visited the stadium during the course of 2014, making it one of the most frequently visited venues in the local area, but only 92,925 of those came to watch the U’s in action.

Elton John at Colchester United

Photo by Richard Blaxall, Colchester United Football Club photographer

That leaves some 170,871 having attended for non-football events, with the piece de resistance the Elton John concert in the summer of 2014.

An international music superstar he might be, but the first concert at the Weston Homes Community Stadium had a very local feel on a memorable June evening.

Some 61% of the 16,500 tickets bought were acquired by people in a CO postcode, with a further 14% from CM postcodes as music fans from across the local area came to the stadium to watch Elton in action.

Whilst the real Elton caused waves at the home of Colchester United, we have also enjoyed some fantastic imitators over the last few years at the Weston Homes with our popular tribute nights.

Artists of all musical bents have been given the chance to wow the crowds in the stadium’s Layer Suite and, in 2014, 44,886 people came along to watch tribute nights and comedy clubs at the home of Colchester United.

On top of that, the club’s hospitality facilities saw 3,409 people enjoy their Christmas festivities with the U’s as the stadium continues to be a popular place to hold Christmas functions.

Those activities are just the tip of the iceberg for the wide range of community engagement activities that take place at the stadium. Boxing dinners, darts events, school proms, tattoo conventions, mens’ health events and more have taken place in the last year to continue to bring in a wide range of the local community to the stadium.

And whilst they’re key financial generators for the club – with revenues well into seven figures now, the stadium has also been a key hub for community and charity events, too. Charities of all sizes have been able to use the club’s facilities for fundraising activities, with tens of thousands raised by events held by the U’s in 2014.

“We are hugely proud of what we’ve achieved in our seven years at the Weston Homes Community Stadium,” General Manager Tim Waddington told Colchester 101.

“With every year that passes, we engage with a wider range of people within the local community and continue to establish the stadium as a real hub locally.

“From children attending birthday parties through to our Christmas functions, we attract people of all ages and backgrounds and this grows every year.

“The relaunch of our Football in the Community programme in 2013 has also allowed us to take that message about the stadium out into the local town and beyond, with our coaches working in 60 schools a week and engaging with over 5,000 children a week.”

Photo by Richard Blaxall, Colchester United Football Club photographer

And it is with school age children that the club are continuing to build for the future – with efforts on and off the pitch bearing fruit.

Off the pitch, the club were crowned as the Football League’s Family Club of the Year in 2015, providing the best family experience for supporters out of any of the 72 league clubs.

Nearly 7,000 U11s attended live first team football for free during the course of 2014/15 and crowds overall were up 4% on the season before, despite spending much of the campaign at the wrong end of League One.

Key to that success on the pitch and ultimately survival in League One were players who themselves had watched from the terraces in seasons gone by.

The club have gone to great lengths in recent years to build a strong Academy, with an open pathway to first team football.

Last season, 122 first team appearances were made by Academy graduates with the likes of Alex Gilbey (Gilberd School) and Sammie Szmodics (Stanway School) wearing the kit of their home town team with real pride.

Sammie has been with the U’s since he was seven and exemplifies what the club are trying to achieve with their young players.

A recent friendly game against Fulham in pre-season saw the U’s finish with seven homegrown players out of the eleven on the pitch, with ten in total having had some match minutes at some stage that afternoon.

The Col U team for the coming campaign is truly one that is ‘made in Colchester’ and the successes of the stadium all told mean that the club are well placed to grow for the future.

Matt Hudson





Matt Hudson
Media Manager, Colchester United

Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks

Our Classical Music columnist Liz Leatherdale, founder and owner of Colchester Classics, brings you her pick of August’s Classical Music events in, and around, Colchester.

Enrique Granados and Isaac Albeniz

Two of the most well-known composers of Catalan music from the last century are Enrique Granados and Isaac Albeniz.  On Thursday 6 August at 12.30pm, Peter Dollimore presents a concert of this style of piano music in St Peter ad Vincula, Coggeshall. Lunchtime concerts start at 12.30pm.. Light lunches available from 12 noon.

Admission is free – retiring collection


Gilbert and Sullivan’s – Iolanthe

On Sunday 9 August at 2.30pm Illyria Theatre Company returns to the beautiful walled gardens at The Minories, Colchester for Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, Iolanthe, set half in Fairyland, half in Westminster will be performed. In typical G & S style, its surprisingly topical satire pokes fun at love, class, politics and how those from different backgrounds form uneasy relationships. All llyria productions are performed by a reduced cast with live piano accompaniment. Having seen Mikado at the The Minories a couple of years ago I can highly recommend Illyria Theatre productions of Gilbert and Sullivan. Iolanthe will be staged outside with some unreserved seating, so be prepared for an outdoor performance! Sunday August 9 at 2.30pm.

Tickets: £14 or £36.00 for a family ticket.  The Minories, 74, High Street, Colchester.  (01206) 712437


Organ Fest

Colchester Town Hall’s majestic Edwardian organ in the magnificent setting of the Moot Hall has been recently renovated to its former glory.  The inaugural ‘Organ Fest’ a series of four lunchtime concerts, began with organist Dr Gillian Ward Russell on Tuesday 21 July.  The final concert is on Tuesday 11 August when Andrew Cantrill performs Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on ‘Greensleeves’ and Walton’s Coronation March ‘Orb & Sceptre’. Full details on the restored organ and all the organists involved in this mini-festival can be found at Colchester Town Hall, High Street, Colchester.

Admission is free to the Organ Fest recital with a retiring collection for the Mayor’s Charities.


Summer Lunchtime – St Botolph’s

Summer Lunchtime concerts were recently launched at St Botolph’s, Colchester on 22 July and continue until 23 September. This month there is a Harp recital on Wednesday August 19 with performances by Louise Binks and Maria Creasey.


Roman River Festival – The Glories of the Moot Hall Organ

Tickets are now available for The Glories of the Moot Hall Organ – the Roman River Festival’s first ever organ recital. Young organist Tom Bell presents a varied programme including music by Bliss, Bridge, Duruflé and the winners from the Pipeworks competition (John Furse’s Moot Points and Mark Bellis’ Graduation Toccata). During the concert Tom will accompany the Colchester Chamber Choir in some popular music including Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine. Sunday 27 September, 5pm, Colchester Town Hall. Tickets: £12 (01206 729356). The Roman River Festival (17 September – 4 October) covers a wide range of music and actively encourages anyone under the age of 30 to enjoy concerts.

Tickets priced from £3


BBC Proms

Last but not least, do dip into the greatest Classical Music festival on earth, the BBC Proms: an eight-week summer season of classical music concerts held predominantly in the glorious Royal Albert Hall and available on TV, Radio and the iPlayer.

Yasmin Rowe

Young international pianist Yasmin Rowe presents an eclectic mix of music from Bach to Piazolla in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester, later in August. Yasmin’s family is celebrating various significant birthdays and this free concert will make these events even more memorable.

Yasmin was last heard in Colchester in 2008 as soloist in Grieg’s Piano Concerto.  Since then she has performed at various concert venues worldwide and recovered from surgery to her left hand.   The first half of the concert will be solo piano music and after the interval Yasmin will be joined by the highly regarded international cellist, Yelian He.  Saturday 22 August at 7.30pm, St Botolph’s Church, Colchester.

Admission is free with a retiring collection.


The same venue continues its Summer Lunchtime Concert series with a recital of Harp Music with Louise Binks and Maria Creasey. Wednesday 19 August at 1pm.

Admission is free with a retiring collection.


If you have a forthcoming concert of classical music, you would like previewed, contact Liz Leatherdale on 0800 999 6994.


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Liz Leatherdale

Liz Leatherdale


Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation

Mission Impossible

In many ways this latest instalment of the Tom Cruise starring, all-action, espionage franchise feels very much like a throwback: it’s an “analog” movie in a digital age. You can’t have helped seeing that footage of Cruise hanging onto the side of a plane, it’s been everywhere, what’s really remarkable about it though is that it’s really real. Other movies would probably gone the route of using a cgi actor pasted onto a cgi plane. Mission: Impossible has gone the route that must give insurance brokers nightmares and gone for a real movie star hanging onto a real plane (yes, they’ve probably used cgi to take out the wires and harnesses post production, but that’s not really the point, is it?). Whether it’s Cruise hanging onto a plane, riding a motorcycle at breakneck speed, fighting on precarious hanging platforms or diving into a ridiculously dangerous looking desalination pool (probably a stunt man in this case, but you get the point) it is all real, it’s all “analog”; it’s not computer generated; it’s not digital. And the point of all this? It makes for one of the best, most viscerally exciting and entertaining movies of the year.

Following on from the events of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (or M:I 4, if you prefer), where the Impossible Mission Force’s actions led to the destruction of The Kremlin, the American government decide to close down the activities of Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and the IMF, integrating them into the CIA. Close to exposing the rogue nation of the title, an evil anti-IMF known as The Syndicate, Hunt goes rogue in an attempt to finish his mission, so begins an exciting and twisting three-way game of cat and mouse.  Staying one step ahead of the CIA with the help of his former team mates Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther (Ving Rhames) and “Is she goodie/Is she baddie?” femme fatale, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), Hunt is closing in on The Syndicate. But will he catch up to the bad guys before either he’s brought in or they enact their nefarious plan to enact a new world order via an escalating series of terrorist attacks?


To tell you any more of the plot would be spoiling the movie for you and, to be honest, I’m not sure I even could. If you’ve seen any of the other Mission: Impossible movies you’ll know what to expect plot-wise: twists, turns, double-agents, triple-bluffs and really great action set-pieces.

It’s difficult not to like Cruise in this kind of role and, in general, it’s difficult not to like Cruise. Sure, some of his off-screen shenanigans make him easy to scoff at, but he genuinely loves making this kind of movie and he genuinely loves it when audiences love seeing, and more importantly enjoying, this kind of movie. Cruise obviously enjoys playing Ethan Hunt and it shows, he throws himself wholeheartedly into playing him and keeps Hunt from straying over into cartoonish hero territory. But, while Cruise is the star of the franchise, Rebecca Ferguson is the star of this movie. Ferguson, as Ilsa Faust, is remarkable in this, she’s gorgeous and lethal and, above all, she’s human, she’s more human than Ethan Hunt has ever been. She stays not only one step ahead of Ethan but one step ahead of the film’s bad guy, the mysterious and almost omnipotent head of The Syndicate, Lane, played by Sean Harris with restraint and cool evil.

Mission Impossible

There’s plenty of able support by Renner, Rhames and Alec Baldwin, but the majority of side-kick screen-time goes to Simon Pegg’s Benji. Pegg is such a likeable screen presence and it’s all up there in Rogue Nation, every time Benji outsmarts the bad guys or the slimy bureaucracy of the CIA you feel like punching the air, score one for the little guy! Ethan and Benji’s “Bromance” is such a beautiful and realised thing, I would be crushed to discover that Pegg and Cruise hated each other off-screen (they don’t, phew)

Director Christopher McQuarrie, best known as a screen-writer (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie, Edge Of Tomorrow), has come of age with Rogue Nation. There’s an old fashioned feel of craftsmanship to his direction and everything feels like it was worked by an artisan, with time, care and, if not affection, a love for great action cinema. There’s so many great action sequences and it would be hard to pick a favourite, but each sequence has its own story, its own beginning, middle and end, they’re not just thrown in there to keep the film ticking along, they’re there to move the story along, they are there because they need to be there.

You might feel like going to see Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation because there’s nothing else on that you fancy, but you’d be doing it a great disservice. This film deserves to be seen on its own merits, not viewed as just another Summer blockbuster. It’s great. It’s really great (and it’s still got the most exciting theme music ever to come from a tv show).

If it weren’t for Mad Max: Fury Road, Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation would easily be the best action movie of the year. “Damn You, George Miller” – Tom Cruise*

*Not an actual quote, but he probably thought it

For show times and booking visit Odeon Colchester.

Andy Oliver





Andy Oliver

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