Winter Wonderland is coming to Colchester!

Winter Wonderland & Ice Skating LogoAfter months of hard work behind the scenes by the organisers to meet the long list of requirements to put on a major public event in the grounds of an historic monument, last Thursday Colchester Council finally gave the green light for Colchester’s first ever Winter Wonderland in Castle Park, complete with an ice skating rink. Ben Payne of Illuminate Design, the man with the vision to create this amazing event, and who was also behind the giant television screen in the park during the Wimbledon fortnight, tells us about what we can expect at Winter Wonderland & Ice Skating.

So the day that we have been working to finally arrived on Thursday 30th July when we gained planning permission for the Winter Wonderland & Ice Rink. This was a day that, at times, we never thought would come, but after what seemed like months and months of hard work it did!!

So what can you expect when you come to Winter Wonderland & Ice Rink? Well quality, and we hope a fantastic few hours on the site.

It’s important to us that everyone has a good time and feels that everything is great value for money. Every year somewhere there is a story about of some park or event where the entry is £20, the Santa’s just out of school and the paint’s still wet. This won’t be the case in Colchester.

The people behind this project have worked in the theatre and entertainment market for years, we know what’s needed, how to deliver it on time, and ensure that you have the best time possible.

We’re not in to make a “quick buck” we’re here to put on an event that does Colchester proud and is something that is firstly talked about as THE event to do, and secondly one that can grow from year to year.

Winter Wonderland

Putting on this sort of event isn’t cheap at all. By the time the last person leaves the site at the end of January after everything’s been packed up it’s likely to have cost in excess of ¼ million pounds just to run the event. We have to provide the ice rink, the staff, 24/7 day a week security, huts and outlets for all the food, catering and winter market, provide protective matting for the ground around the castle, diesel for the generators – the list goes on.

There are many revenue streams to the site, but sadly one of these has to be the tickets! We would love to provide the skating for £3 a time but by the time you have taken VAT of 20% off the ticket, then additional things like credit card fees and ticketing charges, we would need to get about 90,000 people skating – that’s nearly ¾ of Colchester’s population which just isn’t going to happen!!

We’ve tried to strike that difficult balance that we know it’s an expensive time of the year, but we’re needing to cover the cost’s to put on the event!

So what is going to be on the site?

Well the main feature is the 20m x 25m real ice, ice rink. We’ve been asked on lots of occasions if it’s plastic – no! It’s the proper thing!

There will be a building for you to change your skates and also cloakroom facilities to drop your bags. Next door will be a café serving teas, coffees, sandwiches, cakes.

Winter Wonderland Colchester

Behind the castle there will be a selection of other catering outlets offering a mix of hot food and drinks throughout the day to cater for all your needs. Also behind the castle will be the fun fair. These won’t be fast moving “thrill rides” but more your traditional fun fair carousel, helta skelta, and other small rides.


Winter Wonderland

On the other side of the site will be 25 winter market huts selling a mix of local produce, toys and other quality items.

There are also a couple of other items we still have to announce – but rest assured it’s all going to add to the environment and enjoyment of the Christmas period.

Entrance to the site is totally free. So you can come in, watch people skate (or slide) around the rink, look at the produce in the market and walk away not having spent a single penny. We of course hope that you’ll join in the fun by skating or going on a ride – but if not just enjoy the atmosphere!

We’re expecting the event to cater for all ages. Be it the primary school that wants to do something for an end of term treat, or the office party that wants to come and enjoy skating before heading off for a meal in town, through to the family taking the kids skating. It’s there for all the people of Colchester and the surrounding area to enjoy!

There are still plenty of ways you could be involved (apart from buying tickets!) We still have some fantastic commercial sponsorship opportunities available, you have until the 31st August to apply for a market stall, and in October we’ll be looking for choirs and musicians to come and sing on our stage at weekends and some selected evenings. We want this event to bring together all aspects and walks of Colchester life to one big Christmas celebration.

ice rink

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this insight into the Winter Wonderland & Ice Rink. You can find out more about things like opening times, and prices, on our website which also contains a booking link for tickets. If you would rather pick up your tickets in person you can do this by contacting the Mercury Theatre direct.

The whole event opens on the morning of 27th November at 10am. We hope between then and 9pm on the 3rd January we’ll be able to give you a warm welcome at the Winter Wonderland & Ice Rink.

Ben Payne





Ben Payne

Photography – Capture Time in Motion

Those of you who remember the original Colchester 101 magazine will recall our amazing resident photographer Adrian Multon’s monthly column. Wivenhoe based Adrian is a freelance commercial photographer and we are delighted to have him back on board helping our readers to hone their photographic and Photoshop skills.

The photograph isolates and perpetuates a moment of time, according to American master Edward Weston. But why limit yourself to a single moment?

Timestacking gives the appearance of motion to a scene standard photographic technique would render static. It involves blending multiple shots of a scene that contains both static and moving elements. A favourite of time-lapse photographers – the cloudscape makes a great place to start your experiments with time.
image 1What kit are you going to need for this? Your camera will need interval timer functionality. This allows you to create a regularly-spaced sequence of exposures with a single press of the shutter release button. Many dSLRs have this built in, but others require software downloaded from the web and run from your memory card.

A sturdy tripod will help your camera remain motionless, especially on blustery days. It is also a good idea to set out with an empty memory card and full battery; you do not want to be interrupting a great sequence of shots to swap out either of those items.

Back home you will need image editing software that utilizes layers –  so Adobe Photoshop / Elements are okay, but Adobe Lightroom does not implement layers, so will not do the job in this instance. The notes here refer to Photoshop CS6. A basic understanding of layers will also serve you well for this technique.

image 2

So, you have found the perfect spot to plant your camera and point your lens at a sweeping North Essex vista. It being a British summer, plenty of dramatic cloud is being chased across the sky by a stiff breeze. Study your composition and choose an element to focus on. By all means use auto-focus, but switch to manual focus before starting the timer to ensure the camera cannot change or lose focus in the event of the focal point being temporarily obscured.

Fire off a few single-frame test shots to get your exposure right. Manual exposure will give consistent exposures when the light level is constant, but aperture or shutter priority modes may be suitable in situations where light levels are changing rapidly.

Once you are happy with the composition and exposure settings, all that remains is to set the interval timer. This feature allows you to specify the number of images exposed in a sequence, and the amount of time between each exposure.

Experiment! Shorter intervals make moving elements appear smoother, but may require more shots overall. Ensure your tripod is secure, set off the interval timer, and stand back….

image 3

Card brimming and battery drained, it’s time to get back home for some serious editing. ‘Serious’ because you’re likely to stretch your hardware when combining dozens (or hundreds) of images into one.

After downloading images to a computer, divide them into sets, placing each set in its own folder. Load the first image in a set into your image editing software, check it is sharp, and immediately save it. This is your base image.

Open the next image exposed. Hold down shift and drag the layer from this new file to the base image (shift ensures the frames line up). Repeat this process of adding new layers to the top of the layer stack in the base image until you notice your computer start to creak and slow down (this point will vary depending on available resources and size of image files).

Select all layers apart from the bottom ‘background’ layer and set the layer blending mode to ‘lighten’ or ‘darken’. The choice will depend on the moving elements in your images; when the moving elements are brighter than the static background (e.g. white clouds in blue sky) choose ‘lighten’, and when darker (e.g. storm clouds) choose ‘darken’.

image 4

Ideally, if your tripod did its job, all the static elements in each exposure should line up nicely. If not, you may need to mask out areas in some layers. Once created, a mask can be duplicated to other layers if needed.

Flatten the image and load more exposures – repeat until all (or enough) exposures have been incorporated.

image 5

If you like to make colour or tonal adjustments to images, apply the same adjustments to all images in a stack. Apart from RAW adjustments, I prefer to see what the merged sequence looks like before tinkering with saturation and contrast.

Put in the time and you will be rewarded with vivid and slightly surreal imagery.

The timestacks here were my first try with this technique. They employed 5-10 second intervals and a very modest number of shots (between 30 and 80), but when I find the time I hope to experiment with stacks of several hundred frames.

Please take a few minutes to take at look at Adrian’s website

Adrian Multon





Adrian Multon

Inside Out

Inside Out

What makes a movie great? What is it that makes a movie an “all-time” great? Is it action? Is it memorable characters? Is it an affecting story? Is it the emotion?

Well yeah, it’s all these things, you need all these things in place, but for a movie to be really great it has to affect you, the viewer, it has to tell you something about you that you were unable to express yourself and, most importantly, tell you something about others that you were never even aware of.

Inside Out is really, truly great.

Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is a 12 year old girl uprooted from her home and friends in Minnesota when her father (Kyle MacLachlan) has to move the family to San Francisco. Her new world is strange and frightening; a new house, a new school with new, unfamiliar kids; a new family dynamic. That’s the basic set-up, but inside Riley’s head there’s a whole other movie playing out. Inside Riley’s head there are five emotions helping guide her through life: Joy (Amy Poehler), the first emotion she ever felt and also the most dominant one; Sadness (Phyllis Smith), whom Joy tries to keep to the shadows of Riley’s sunny headquarters; Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) round out the quintet trying to keep her happy, safe and productive. The emotions also collect Riley’s experiences and file them in her memory, making sure each memory is uncontaminated by any of the four other companions. When something goes catastrophically wrong at HQ, Joy and Sadness are whooshed off to the memory banks leaving Fear, Anger and Disgust in control until the other two can find their way back and restore emotional balance.

Riley must stumble through her day, her only responses to the world being afraid, angry or snarky while Joy and Sadness travel the length and breadth of her mind to get back to HQ. And what a landscape Riley’s mind is, from Long Term Memory Storage to Imagination Land through the Dream Factory via Abstract Thought. Along the way they meet Riley’s forgotten imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind), a kind of pink candy floss elephant who cries wrapped candy tears and acts as their guide. Bing Bong is an all-time great character, one of the best Pixar have ever created, so when… well, never mind, I don’t want to spoil this movie for anyone. Every place the trio visit sheds new light and understanding on how our own minds work, a staggering achievement and a breath-taking concept for a cartoon – it works so well that you might not even be consciously aware of what it’s doing.

Inside Out

Inside Out is up there with Pixar’s best movies, I’d even go so far as to say it’s actually the best! Big statement, I’ll explain: Inside Out is easily the most exciting, intelligent, inventive and ambitious movies the studio have ever made; on an emotional level it’s never cheap or maudlin, it’s deeply affecting, imagine a whole movie that has the same emotional punch as the first tem minutes of Up; the stakes are the lowest Pixar have ever laid out before us: a young girl’s happiness; the stakes are the highest Pixar have ever played out before us: a young girl’s happiness; nobody’s life is on the line but a young girl’s whole life is on the line.

At one point we get to see inside Riley’s parents’ minds and we realise that Joy doesn’t necessarily have to be the dominant emotion, Riley’s mum (Diane Lane), for instance, has Sadness as her dominant one and we understand that this is the emotion that gives us empathy, the ability to understand the feelings of others. It’s almost a throwaway moment but, in the wider picture, it’s one of the film’s most important messages: Sadness is good and helps us understand the way others hurt, we need sadness in our lives. It’s a simple, almost revolutionary, message that, like all the best moral messages, is true because it’s so simple.

Have I made it sound like Inside Out lacks laughs? It doesn’t. It’s really, really funny, there’s great comedy performances from some top level talent. The characters are cute and unforgettable and the animation sublime. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be glued to your seat. The late, great film critic, Roger Ebert, called cinema an Empathy Machine, Inside Out is an Empathy Interface, you need to interact with it, Inside Out is certainly not designed to be a passive experience. Plug in.

Directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen have created a beautiful, deceptively simple must-see movie that you’ll come out of a better person than you were when you bought your tickets. That, for me, is why we should be talking about Inside Out as one of The Greats.

By the way, the BBFC have rated Inside Out as a “U” certificate. That means it is suitable for everyone. Everyone should see Inside out. Every living person on the planet. It’s that good. It’s that important.

For show times and booking visit Odeon Colchester.

Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver




In many ways Ant-Man, Marvel’s latest big screen offering, feels like a do-over of the original movie that kicked this thundering behemoth of a studio into gear, Iron Man: It’s about a guy with a particular set of skills who acquires a super-suit, learns to master that suit, then has to battle a guy with a similar, but over-powered, suit. In many ways Ant-Man, Marvel’s latest big screen offering is something unexpectedly different to every other movie that studio has yet offered us.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has languished for three years in jail for burglary, a Robin Hood-ish crime that reimbursed the investors of a conniving corporation with the funds extorted from them. Three years away from his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and his poppet daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). Now all Scott wants is to rebuild his life, pay his child support and spend time with his little girl. Life, though, doesn’t work that way, especially for an ex-con, and Scott is once again drawn into a life of crime. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately) the crime he becomes involved in involves breaking into the home of scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Pym, it emerges, was once a super soldier who worked for Marvel’s go-to super-espionage agency, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the inventor of a device that allowed him to shrink to the size of an ant whilst maintaining his ability to punch like a boss. Scott steals the super-suit, and the macro-to-micro adventures begin: Pym and his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), need Scott and his cat-burglar skills to destroy an attempt to replicate his Ant-Man suit and, effectively, arm the highest bidder with an army of super soldiers.

Paul Rudd is one of the most likeable big screen presences working in movies today, but don’t expect one of his mumbling comedy performances here (although he is still very funny here), Rudd plays Scott as a regular guy, an everyman looking not to atone to society in large but rather to his daughter in specific. Michael Douglas has great fun as aging hero, Hank Pym, punching out one bad guy in particular time and again and embracing the whole silliness of the concept but never hamming it up. As Hope van Dyne, Evangeline Lilly provides us with another strong Marvel female character, no shrinking violet (sorry) or damsel in distress here, she’s strong, spunky, ambitious and not afraid to let her fists do the talking. Corey Stoll, as bad-guy Darren Cross/Yellowjacket, does his best with a slightly under-written, generic villain whose character and arc is a little too much like Jeff Bridges’ character, Obadiah Stane, in the original Iron Man movie. There’s terrific support throughout, but it is Michael Pena’s Luis, the small-time crook with big ambitions chum of Scott, which you yearn to see more of, you can’t help but smile every time he’s on the screen.


The first twenty minutes of Ant-Man has a tendency to drag a little (although there’s little in this movie to upset smaller children, it might be difficult for them to maintain their attention after the exposition heavy opening), but once (director) Peyton Reed finds his footing the movie cracks along at an exciting, an occasionally exhilarating, pace. There’s a lot of fun in the back garden training scenes and the heist portion of the film is thrilling and inventive, as is the final battle between Scott and Yellowjacket. Ant-Man was originally developed for the screen by Edgar Wright, writer and director of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost Cornetto trilogy and there’s a lot of his “DNA” in evidence here: the fast talking; the quick cutting; the inventive, zingy fun.

The macro-to-micro, and back again, effects provide something completely new to the action scenes, with Scott constantly shrinking and growing where the action is appropriate. There’s a lot of fun in playing with everyday objects suddenly scaled to enormous sizes, iPhones, bathtubs and the grooves on an LP all providing fun highlights. These are the few scenes that make 3D seem worthwhile, there’s a slightly disorienting effect that makes it feel like the viewer is shrinking or growing alongside Scott.

Although he might be a secondary character in the greater Marvel Universe, Ant-Man shouldn’t be regarded as a lesser hero, he’s the most human of the lot, so far. It’s not Guardians of the Galaxy great, but Ant-Man is a huge amount of fun and has the biggest heart of any superhero movie yet. If you’re mildly interested and, maybe, thinking about waiting until it comes out on dvd, I would urge you to watch it at the cinema, it might seem small but it’s really rather large. Don’t brush it off.

For show times and booking visit Odeon Colchester.

Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver


The Carnival is Coming!

With the 2015 Colchester Carnival now just over a week away, Emma Harisson from the hard working Carnival Team previews this year’s event.

The Carnival is coming to Colchester this July, bringing a unique brand of fiesta spirit to our Town Centre streets! Saturday the 18th will see the more vibrant side of the Colchester community come alive, with everyone invited to get involved and celebrate summer!


Colchester Carnival

In its fifth year of being run by Colchester Ladies Circle and Colchester Round Table the event is a fantastic community occasion and has raised over £27,500 in the last four years for local good causes.

Weston Homes Plc has been the main sponsor for Colchester Carnival for the last four years.   The event is run entirely for the benefit of the local community and all profits go back to good causes in the Colchester area.  The generosity of Weston Homes has meant that many of the costs involved in putting on Carnival have been covered, ensuring more money goes to support good causes.

Colchester Carnival

The Carnival has been a huge success over the years.  Last year Colchester Carnival was attended by over 12,000 people, the procession had over 60 entries and 1,200 performers.  Lower and Upper Castle Park had more than 100 trade stalls with bands, dance and theatrical groups performing throughout the day.

This time around Colchester Carnivals theme is ‘Heroes and Villains’, with people from across the town invited to join in.

Colchester Carnival

The Carnival itself is split between a Family Fun Day in the Castle Park and a Procession that runs from one end of the town through to the other. The Castle Park events start at 11am and finish at 8pm and will include local bands, choirs and dance groups performing in the Arena, kid’s rides, trade stalls, food outlets and a beer tent.

The Procession will begin earlier this year 1pm to give spectators the opportunity to visit the Park after the Procession.  It starts from Abbey Fields, travels up Butt Road, down the High Street and end at Castle Park.

Colchester Carnival Leaflet 2015

The whole event is looking to be one that brings our community together, a day where we can all enjoy some Carnival spirit and hopefully some sunshine! So head on down, cheer the floats, try the rides and enjoy the bands.

You can find out more about this year’s Carnival on the official Colchester Carnival website.

Colchester Carnival Team
The Colchester Carnival Team




Dragon Colchester Castle

When I was a teenager I lived in Riverside Estate, with Castle Park right on my doorstep, so I have many memories of playing football in the lower park, being chased on our bikes along the riverside path on our way home from school by the park keeper in his little Bedford van  – Colchester wasn’t so cycling friendly then and riding a bike in the park was forbidden – not forgetting sledging down the hill from the upper to lower park and trying to avoid a collision with the Roman wall at the bottom. I think maybe that familiarity at the time prevented me from appreciating what an amazing asset the park is to Colchester, and it is only since returning to live in the town after nearly twenty years spent in Wivenhoe, and living almost by its gates once again, that I truly understand the important role Castle Park plays in the town.

Park Smaller


Over the past few months since my return I have really grown to love this wonderful green space that begins right in the heart of our town centre, behind the magnificent gates by the war memorial in Cowdray Crescent where the High Street meets East Hill, greeting us with its ornamental gardens, before sweeping down the hill to the Roman wall, then the wonderful green space beyond it that stretches along the river, with further grassy areas beyond the gates creating a swathe of green almost from East Mill, past Riverside Estate and Leisure World, taking in the cricket ground then onwards almost to North Station Road.

Castle Tower Reduced


The jewel in the park’s crown is of course Colchester Castle. Built on the orders of William the Conqueror, the castle is the largest Norman Keep in Britain, and was the blueprint for its smaller relative, the Tower of London. The sheer size of the castle always amazes me, as does the thought that it stands on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius which was built by the Romans after they invaded 2000 years ago and made Colchester the country’s original capital. What a breathtaking sight that building must have been! And these days there is something special about seeing people sitting on the grass, enjoying the sun, just feet away from those castle walls that have stood there for nearly 1000 years.

Weir Reduced 1




Living so close to the park these past few months, since the weather has become warmer it’s been a pleasure to take the longer walk home from town via the park after a Saturday afternoon lunch or shopping trip, with the occasional Sunday afternoon walk along the river thrown in. And in recent weeks there always seems to be something going on, whether it’s a brass band providing free entertainment in the bandstand, or the Food and Drink Festival bringing locals and other people into the park from the surrounding areas. And of course we still have the Free Festival to come, which this year we are promised is to be held over two days. But for me the park has really come into its own this past week since the giant television screen has been stalled for the duration of Wimbledon. What a wonderful idea this has been. Watching Wimbledon for free while sitting on the hill in the sun, armed with a picnic, a bottle of wine or couple of beers. Although I’m sure that hill has got steeper as I’ve got older! On days when I’ve been working from home it’s been hard to resist the temptation to slip off for an hour or so to watch the tennis with a cold drink. And, in even better news, Illuminate Design, who provided and installed the screen, are hoping to put on Colchester’s very own Winter Wonderland over the Christmas period to rival the one in London’s Hyde Park, complete with, yes they are serious… an ice skating rink. Fingers crossed they get the green light for this ambitious event which will bring people to the town from far and wide, many of whom will also spend money in the town’s shops, restaurant and pubs, putting money into our local economy.


Gym Reduced


Burgers Reduced



As the weeks go by I find I love Castle Park more and more. New York’s Central Park may be the most famous public park in the World, but it’s got nothing on Colchester’s Castle Park.

 Simon Crow
Simon runs Media48 sponsors of Colchester 101

Classical Music Picks

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

July 2015

This month hear the Colchester Symphony Orchestra under Chris Phelps perform an important early Romantic work: Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique or Fantastic Symphony. This was the first music to use over 90 orchestral players and history suggests Berlioz may have written some of the music under the influence of opium. Berlioz’s gentler masterpiece the song-cycle Les Nuits d’Ete with soprano soloist Verica Grmusa and the orchestral  Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, without doubt Debussy’s most famous work, will be performed at 7.30pm on Saturday 11 July 2015 in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester.

Tickets: £14 (01206 271128)


On 4 July the Hervey Benham Young Soloists concert offers some of our gifted local musicians the opportunity to perform with an orchestra. Soloists include Sam Marde (Organ), Kerenza Newcombe (trumpet) and Zachary Kleanthous (tenor). Zachary, a former pupil of Colchester Royal Grammar School, starts a chorister scholarship at Chelmsford Cathedral in September. St Botolph’s Music Society Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Abbott.Tickets: Saturday 4 July 2015 in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester at 7.30pm.

Tickets £12.50


The Harwich Festival ends on Sunday 5 July 2015 with the Royal College of Music  Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir performing exhilarating period favourites such as Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, Purcell’s ‘Come Ye sons of Art’ and Handel’s Zadok the Priest. Sunday 5 July at 6.30pm, St Nicholas Church, Harwich.

Tickets: £12.00


The weekend of 3 – 5 July, the Roman River Festival has its first mini-festival: a Schubertiade with three concerts, bringing James Gilchrist and other distinguished musicians to the idyllic villages of Wivenhoe, Boxted and Fingringhoe.

Tickets: £15. Telephone (01206 729356 for details on both the mini and also main festival)


Colchester Town Hall’s majestic Edwardian organ in the magnificent setting of the Moot Hall has been recently renovated to its former glory. This month sees the launch of Organ Fest on Tuesday 21 July with a concert by Gillian Ward-Russell and the following week a concert by Colchester’s Borough Organist, Ian Ray.


The Thaxted Festival is held each summer in the magnificent setting of the church at the heart of this small medieval town. The festival includes concerts by Red Priest, the wild and extraordinary interpreters of Baroque and early music, a family concert with the Brandenburg Sinfonia and closes on July 12 with Tenebrae performing some beautiful choral works from Allegri to John Tavener.

Telephone: (01371 831421)


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


Liz Leatherdale

Liz Leatherdale




The Appetite Book Club

For almost ten years Jo Coldwell has run the Appetite Book Club in Colchester. Jo introduces us to the club and discusses one of the books they have read.

Appetite Book Club
We are an informal book club, meeting monthly in Colchester on the last Wednesday evening of the month to discuss a book over supper and wine. The idea is that you read the book before you turn up. PRE BOOKING and PRE PAYMENT IS ESSENTIAL and the evening includes a two-course supper and a glass of wine at a local, independently owned cafe .

People are encouraged to come on their own or in a group… either way I split people into groups so that there are no cliques and everybody is made to feel equal. Each month between 40 and 70 people meet.

On arrival everybody mingles at the bar with a glass of wine… the wine helps to loosen the tongue. We then sit down to eat at tables of four, which means that any book chat is always in a small and intimate group and is less intimidating! Between main course and pudding we all change around to a different table.  This keeps the conversation fresh and means we meet new people all the time.

We started in 2007 at the now closed Cafe/Bar APPETITE and moved to THE OLD COURT HOUSE who have fully embraced the club and even provided curry and buying balti dishes when we read Q&A (a.k.a Slumdog Millionaire)!

Generally we choose fiction, but one month we discussed the remarkable war diaries of a courageous and beautiful, young Vietnamese doctor ‘LAST NIGHT I DREAMED OF PEACE: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram’

Last Night I Dreamed Of Peace

The background to this choice came about when a friend, Bill Hayton (based in Colchester), offered to come to book club and talk about his time as a BBC correspondent living in Vietnam.  This coincided with the release of his own book VIETNAM: RISING DRAGON – well reviewed by The Spectator, The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Irish Times – which called it a “fascinating primer … a cleverly pitched book, one that will appeal equally to a businessman or investor… an old Asia hand, or an inquisitive backpacker”. Bill however modestly swerved us away from his own book and suggested ‘PARADISE OF THE BLIND’ by Duong Thu Huong, which was banned in its own country; the first novel from Vietnam ever published in the USA.

Vietnam Rising Dragon

Paradise of the Blind

With a large selection of people meeting at book club I like to ensure that we can access the book in different ways, the cheapest being the library, and the best being the one to give you a warm glow of local loveliness –  the independent RED LION BOOKS. On further investigation Essex Libraries only had 0ne copy and I felt it unfair to narrow our options. RED LION BOOKS recommended some others; LAST NIGHT I DREAMED OF PEACE being one of them.  Captivated by the beautiful title, we went for this.

Lots of our group loved the book.  It was historical, poignant and illuminating.  For me, reading a diary can feel disjointed and interrupts the literary flow. There can be sharp stabs of emotion scattered with gaping holes. With this book there is literally a whole chunk missing where Than lost a large section of her diary during a bomb raid.   Reading a female and medical account of this notorious war, was however, a gem, and throughout I was acutely aware of Than’s innocence through her description of unrequited love, which was as poignant as her despair of war. As a young girl she was not concerned with military minutia but more about the emotional morale of her people.

Book club led to a debate on diary writing generally.  We have all read purpose written diaries, destined for publication – which despite being in diary form have structure and rhythm (Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones spring to mind). A diary like Than’s, written as a personal memoir and published in its rawest form, oozes credibility, but it also becomes the victim of monotony. The footnotes and preface lifted the mood, giving another dimension and making it a relevant read. We learn from these notes that Tram’s diary, when found after her death, was no bigger than a cigarette case, handwritten and sewn together. Other notes give an articulate chronology of the war, reminding us of the humanity of this young girl who desperately wanted to channel her compassion into the Party she believed in.  It is interesting how the Party rebuff her offers initially as they are suspicious of her ‘bourgeois tendencies’.

I’m pleased we discussed this diary but my preference would be to now read Bill‘s book, which is not in a diary format and is written about the future of this incredible country. A country which is still heavily linked with images of the horrific war they endured.  RISING DRAGON will appeal to a more optimistic reader, inquisitive about confronting the current issues facing Vietnam and the future choices it has to make.

I don’t think we will rush to read another diary for a while but I’m pleased for the discussions it created.

Best wishes and happy reading, Jo.

Jo Coldwell

Jo Coldwell

Jurassic World

Jurassic World

JURASSIC WORLD, much like its terrifying central monster threat, is a bit of a strange beast pulling its DNA from a variety of sources. Fortunately none of it appears to have been extracted and transposed from a turkey: When it’s good, it’s very, very good, when it’s not it’s okay, just a bit silly and at worst a bit slow; unfortunately it’s good only about 40% of the time.

Set some 22 years after the events of the original Jurassic Park (JW never mentions or references the other two sequels, and I’m pretty much happy go along with that) Jurassic World is the dream of John Hammond made real: Isla Nublar has been open for 10 and years attracts thousands of visitors every day to bask in its resurrected dinosaur attractions. Unfortunately, the park has now been open long enough for dinosaurs to (according to those most dreaded of things: Focus groups) become a bit passé, leading to the decision to create a new scarier, more aggressive attraction from the DNA of various other dinosaurs and creatures. Obviously, creating this new iDinosaur is a bad idea, a bad idea that has horrific results when it inevitably escapes and goes on the rampage, as Jeff Goldblum’s (sadly missed) character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, would have it, “Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.”

The lead actors are appealing enough and keep just this side of being cardboard, although it would be a real push to actually describe any of them as fully rounded. Chris Pratt, so likeable in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, plays ex-Navy man Owen Grady seconded to the park to wrangle velociraptors (yeah, that’s never satisfactorily explained, so don’t ask me), but basically he’s Doug McClure: mildly cheeky but stoic and always, always right. Bryce Dallas Howard plays JW Director of Operations, a career woman with no time for relationships or family who… well, you can guess where her arc is heading, especially when she and Pratt have to race toward the oncoming danger in order to rescue her nephews, dumped on her by their divorcing parents and lost somewhere in the park.

Jurassic World

Irrfan Khan turns up as the park owner who flip-flops between running Jurassic World for the benefit of science, the animals and profit and whose fate is pretty much laid out the first time we meet his character. Vincent D’Onofrio plays the unnecessary bad guy who actually isn’t that bad at all and whose arc could have been excised completely and nobody would notice.

But it’s in the action scenes that JURASSIC WORLD excels. Director Colin Trevorrow harks back to Spielberg’s original, using many of the same action beats and conceits to create an exciting and sweaty palmed thrill ride. The iRex escape is especially good, I say “Good”, I mean terrifying, the pacing is terrific and there is a sense of awe as everything drops into place (I should just say that this is probably the scene which will upset younger viewers the most, it’s a 12A certificate and I would say it’s the upper end of 12A). The final action sequence turns into a Battle Royale of dino’ badasses which is fun but not quite as fist-pumpingly good as you would hope, not like that moment the T-Rex turns up at the end of the original.

Occasionally the film tries to be a bit “Meta”, working as a critique of itself and the whole blockbuster/Summer tent-pole phenomenon (for instance, it’s no coincidence that the Mosasaur is fed with a Great White Shark), it’s a bit obvious and doesn’t really cut it on that level for me. It also tries to say something about the way we interact with experiences, through the screens on our phones rather than face to face somewhat more successfully, but that’s just a throwaway aside, a clever observation but, again, unnecessary.

There’s plenty of fun to be had in JURASSIC WORLD, just a little more of it would have been nice. It’s not Jurassic Park but, by the same token, neither is it The Lost World or JPIII, thank goodness.

Check out the showtimes and even book your Odeon seats online.


Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver

Tea & Sympathy – Grimm Tales of Funk

At Colchester 101 we love to hear about, and support, new, unique, and interesting events, so when Tea & Sympathy told us about their ‘Imaginative, Decadent & Unique’ pop up themed parties that they throw every six weeks or so around Colchester we wanted to know all about them. Melissa Porter and Jo Coldwell, the imagineers behind Tea & Sympathy, tell us more.

Tea & Sympathy

Two friends opened Tea & Sympathy in Crouch Street in 2012 as a one year pop up adventure. The most exciting thing that seemed to evolve during our time in the shop were the themed parties after we closed up for the day. We wanted to create an experience, not just a place to have a drink with friends. We wanted people to stumble across secret rooms where you could have your Tarot cards read by a mysterious woman in black, discover a hidden room where you find yourself at the centre of an immersive theatre experience, be invited to watch a Fire Performance in the secret garden, drink one or two Cocktails and dance with new found friends to some fabulous tunes.

Tea & Sympathy Reading

Tea & Sympathy

We left Crouch Street in September 2013 with a whole load of new friends and a little tear in our eye. We knew that we wanted to continue with the parties, we still had so many themes that we wanted to explore. Since then we have gone all Nautical on the Red Lighthouse Boat at The Hythe Quay, danced our socks off at a Northern Soul inspired night at St Martins Church, channelled our inner Mia Wallace at ‘A Little Bit Quentin’ – a Tarantino night at the Colchester Arts Centre. We’ve created our own little worlds themed around Alice in Wonderland, Narnia – Winter Wonderland, Acid House, Moulin Rouge, Tim Burton Ghost Ship, Dirty Pop, The Night Circus, Lucha Libre and The Great Gatsby to name a few!

Tea & Sympathy
On Saturday 6th June Tea & Sympathy wish to entice you into the inky pages of The Brothers Grimm we invite you to explore the Lighthouse Ship, Hythe Quay from 8pm-1am for …


You enter the ships Main Bar, frozen in time and overgrown with bindweed. This is the festering heart of the witches domain. But fear not, for that vaudevillian psychobillie ‘DJ Lloyd’ will hold the fell spirits at bay with his blend of FUNK & DISCO from bygone eras and forgotten lands.

Follow the trail of breadcrumbs to the witches’ lair where we entice you with potions and brews from Tea & Sympathy’s lavish Jam Jar Cocktail Menu.

Follow the ugly sisters into the depths of the dark forest, where magic and mystery await.

Understar delights and performances from;

Fyreflies & Holly High Heels from Helles Belles Burlesque

Food by Red Pig Chorizo Co.

Dress: Anything Grimm inspired

Tea & Sympathy

Tea & Sympathy

Tickets are just £10. Email for your paperless ticket in advance. We operate a cash only bar, tickets will also be available on the door, email your names for the guest list to guarantee entry.

For more information check out the Tea & Sympathy Facebook Book page.

Tea & Sympathy

We hope to meet you there.

Jo and Melissa

Jo and Melissa

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