Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks for November 2017



This month is crammed full of concerts.  Here are just a few!


This year on Armistice Day, we especially remember the dreadful events of Passchendaele and there will be many commemorative concerts. Many music events will be taking place this weekend to commemorate those who played their part in the two World Wars and more recent conflicts

Lexden Choral Society, accompanied by the Kingfisher Sinfonietta, presents a Remembrance concert including Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man in the first half of the programme followed by more up-beat British orchestral favourites such Walton’s Crown Imperial and Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory in the second half.  Saturday November 11 at 7.30pm in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester.

Tickets: £13 (01206 766906) or from Manns Music Shop.

Essex-based Lyston Voices will be performing both Faure’s and Rutter’s Requiems on Sunday November 12 at 6pm in Holy Trinity, Long Melford.

Admission £15, (inclusive of programme & Interval drinks) advance reservations from email: or at the door from 5.30pm

A Tribute to the Fallen – a Celebration of Freedom is the title of the Suffolk Philharmonic’s concert for Remembrance Sunday including Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and Elgar’s Cello Concerto.  Sunday November 12 at 4pm in Ipswich Corn Exchange.

Tickets from £15.

Finally at Saffron Walden’s prestigious Saffron Hall,  The Harlow Chorus, Saffron Walden Choral Society and the Choristers of Jesus College will perform Britten’s powerful and moving War Requiem.  This concert takes place at Saffron Hall on Sunday November 11 at 7.30pm.

Tickets from £15 (0845 548 7650)


In addition to these Remembrance concerts, others are available! Now in its thirtieth year, the Suffolk Villages Festival brings high-quality performances of early music to rural East Anglia. This Sunday (12 November) at 6pm there is a concert of sacred music spanning the religious divide from Monteverdi to Handel. St Peter’s Church, Sudbury.

For further details and full concert programme on this fascinating concert – (01206 366603)


This weekend there are two opportunities to hear the internationally renowned Trio Con Brio CopenhagenSaturday 11 November at 7.30pm for the Ipswich Chamber Music Society, 7.30pm in the Great Hall in Ipswich School  and also on Sunday 12 November at 4pm in  St Mary’s Church, East Bergholt  as part of the Stour Valley and Arts concert series (01206 298426)

 LUNCHTIME RECITALS from Bray Harps, Medieval Looped music to Ondes Martenots!

Leah Stuttard (bray harp, voice, bells) will team up with her duo partner Agnethe Christensen (voice, Nordic lyres, bells) to present a concert that will make you look at the humble hymn in a new way!   Leah and Agnethe explore the origins of Luther’s chorale melodies using versions originally printed for amateurs at home in the Middle Ages and Renaissance and also perform Scandinavian folk hymns, based on Luther’s tunes, but enriched with startling unexpected chromatics and embellishments.

Wednesday November 15 at 1pm at Colchester’s Lion Walk United Reformed Church

And in complete contrast with all of the above, this month there are several Early Music concerts taking place in St Andrew’s Church in Marks Tey. One of them, A Multitude of Minstrels, offers a meander through the life and music of a court minstrel in the Middle ages. Equipped with little more than some harps, lutes, citoles, fiddles and various wind instruments, Colchester’s Early Music group aims to offer an insight in the world of a professional medieval musician.

For further information on these concerts email or (01206 212466).

Lizzie Gutteridge is actively involved in Colchester’s Early Music Group and amongst other things, also has her own Consort of 1. She will be playing medieval dance tunes on medieval instruments at Colchester’s Lion Walk United Reformed lunchtime concert series on Wednesday November 22 at 1pm.

For further information on the remainder of concerts in the current series please visit

Here is a chance to see and hear one of the first electronic instruments, the Ondes Martenot, famously heard in Messiaen’s Turangalia Symphony but used more recently by film composer James Horner and Radiohead. Monday November 13 at 1.10pm at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.  (01284 769505)


Born without his right hand, piano star Nicholas McCarthy is at the forefront of British music talent, championing accessibility to music for all by using his U.K.

Colchester-based Nicholas is currently touring and promoting his new CD, ‘Echoes’ featuring a cross section from Bach to Rachmaninoff. As a proud Yamaha artist he is delighted to have recorded on the stunning Yamaha flagship Concert Grand CFX.

On Sunday November 19 at 3pm, Nicholas will be performing at Colchester’s St Botolph’s Church.

For full details and to purchase tickets in advance, please click


Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (Latin for solemn mass) is a rare religious outing for the composer. Written just before his famous Ninth Symphony, it has sadly not enjoyed the same level of popular attention.  Some have suggested that the music is better-suited to a concert hall rather than a church while others have compared it with a short opera.  Here is a chance for you to make up your own mind about this beautiful work with soloists Ellie Laugharne, Rebecca Afonwy-Jones, Daniel Joy, Edward Grint, Colchester Choral Society and the Colchester Sinfonia (leader: Jessie Ridley) conducted by Ian Ray.  Saturday November 25 in St Botolph’s Church at 7.30pm

Tickets: £15 from Manns Music or buy on-line

On the same evening, music-lovers in Ipswich will be spoilt for choice!

The brilliant young cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason will perform the work he won the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year, the inspiring Shostakovich 1st Cello Concerto. He will be accompanied by the Ipswich Symphony Orchestra in this all-Russian programme including Rachmaninov’s thrilling Symphony No.2. At only 18, Sheku is already a powerful role model for young musicians.

Tickets are free for under 18s – further details (01473 256461) and       

Whiel over at St John’s, Cauldwell Hall Road the Ipswich Bach Choir and Chamber Orchestra will perform music by Mozart including the ‘Coronation’ Mass and his delightful D major Flute Concerto with soloist Mary Blanchard. As an added bonus, soprano Gill Wilson will repeat her celebrated performance of the Queen of the Night’s aria from The Magic Flute.

Also on the same Saturday evening the Essex Symphony Orchestra will be presenting another tantalising programme featuring Matilda Lloyd who will be playing Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto. Matilda who has played with the BBC Concert Orchestra and has many accolades to her name including that of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2014 where she was the brass final winner.

The orchestra will also be playing Rossini’s ‘The Thieving Magpie’ Overture and Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C major ‘Great’. The concert promises to be a fantastic event and we are incredibly lucky to have Matilda as our soloist on the night! Christchurch in New London Road, Chelmsford on Saturday 25 November at 7.30pm.

The next day, the Colchester Chamber Choir will be celebrating Thanksgiving with an all-American extravaganza at the Moot Hall, Colchester Town Hall on Sunday November 26 at 6pm. Colchester’s acclaimed Chamber Choir will go Stateside with Simple Gifts in November to celebrate Thanksgiving with an all-American extravaganza guaranteed to get toes tapping.

The town’s Moot Hall will resound to joyful and moving music from the very best of American composers including Aaron Copland’s celebrated Old American Songs in choral arrangement, plus works by Samuel Barber including his famous Sure on this shining night and, from his opera Vanessa, the beautiful Under the willow tree, as well as two unusual settings of Emily Dickinson poems by a young Elliott Carter. Also in the programme are Virgil Thomson’s affecting Four Hymns from the Old South.

The concert is on Sunday 26th November in the Moot Hall, Colchester, starting at 6pm and tickets priced £16 adults, £10 for under-30s and £5 for full time students are on sale online at

And last but by no means least, the Young Musician’s Concert series continues at The Pimlott Foundation with Eleanor Voak (bassoon and contra bassoon) and Katherine Raven (viola) with Dr Ian Ray (piano). The programme will include Vogel: Concerto in C Major for bassoon, Schreck: Sonata Op 9, Schubert: The Bass Nightingale, Rebecca Clarke: Sonata for Viola. Admission free. Donations welcome. Refreshments available.

Eleanor is 13 years old , and studying for her DipABRSM, and Katherine is a student at the Royal College of Music.

About the Pimlott Foundation’s Education Programme – it provides musical enrichment experiences for both Primary and Secondary School pupils in Essex and also Suffolk.

About the Pimlott Foundation’s Student Sponsorship scheme –  it offers up to £500 each year to sponsor 1 or 2 talented young musicians. We encourage all performing arts, but music should be at the forefront of any application. Sponsorship period to last April 2018-19. Priority will be given to students with East Anglian connections.

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

Paddington 2

(BBFC PG 1hr 43mins)


2014’s Paddington was an absolute treat. A genuine slice of unadulterated family fun with a heart big enough to bring joy to multiple generations. With that in mind it was with more than a touch of trepidation that I approached Paddington 2, fearing that “difficult second album”, worried that this sequel would throw too much sugar in the recipe or that lightning couldn’t be bottled twice.

Within minutes of the opening of Paddington 2 I was wrapped in a warm bear-hug of comforting familiarity, a gormless smile plastered itself on my face and for the next hour and three-quarters everything was right with the world. Even the most cynical of viewers, once embraced by its marmalade-sticky paws, would find it difficult to leave the cinema with anything but joy in their hearts and an ache in their chuckle muscles after watching it.

This time out, our ursine hero (beautifully voiced again by Ben Whishaw) finds himself in need of money to buy a present for his aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, having found the perfect gift in Mr. Gruber’s quaint little shop of curiosities: a unique pop-up book of London. Whilst Paddington takes on a bunch of odd-jobs (creating the sort of chaos that only he can), the book is stolen by cravat wearing cad and down on his heels thespian Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) who frames the young bear for the crime. The book supposedly holds clues to a hidden fortune. A fortune which Buchanan hopes to find in order to fund his dreams of staging a one man spectacular in London’s West End. Poor Paddington finds himself thrown in gaol for a crime he didn’t commit but, with the assistance of curmudgeonly prison cook Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), plans an audacious escape (The Pawshank Redemption, anyone? Anyone?). Everything culminates in a thrilling and hilarious dash to the west country as Paddington and his adoptive family, the Browns, chase down Buchanan, the book and, possibly, the treasure.

It’s all very silly, edge-of-the-seat thrilling and tremendously entertaining. It doesn’t take a genius to work out where the movie is heading but it’s so much fun getting there that you really don’t care.

The casting of Ben Whishaw as the voice of the eponymous little hero seems even more inspired in this second outing, constantly curious, occasionally puzzled, always innocent yet possessing a very clear sense of right and wrong, there’s something of Paddington that harks back to Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp (and in the action set-pieces, of Buster Keaton). Meanwhile, when he’s not stealing pop-up books, Hugh Grant nicks virtually every scene he’s in as the narcissistic Phoenix Buchanan, a mediocre, has-been actor reduced to starring in dog food adverts (Buchanan not Grant). Buchanan is a wonderful invention, the kind of moustache twirling villain of the Chaplin era rather than Nicole Kidman’s evil intentioned taxidermist from the first Paddington.

The Browns are happily pootling along despite Mr. Brown’s oncoming mid-life crisis and flirtations with moisturiser and yoga. Hugh Bonneville and the always excellent Sally Hawkins provide plenty of laughs and warmth, while Julie Walters returns as wily housekeeper Mrs. Bird. There’s also excellent support from Jim Broadbent as Mr. Gruber, Brendan Gleeson as Knuckles, Sanjeev Bhaskar as a forgetful neighbour, Richard Ayoade as an eccentric forensics expert, Peter Capaldi as the long-suffering misery-guts neighbour Mr. Curry and a host of well-known faces who do themselves, or their reputations, no harm whatsoever by appearing in this funny and charming movie.

Paul King returns to the director’s chair once more and, along with co-writers Jon Croker and Horrible Histories’ Simon Farnaby, has managed to produce a movie that looks effortlessly original and yet heart-warmingly familiar. The laughs come thick and fast and refreshingly free of snark, the jokes are there for everybody to enjoy and all aimed at the entire audience, young and, ahem, older. Yes, it is all too easy to get sniffy about the idealised London, the spotlessly clean Notting Hill, the steam trains and the fact that people still use red telephone boxes (or, indeed, the fact that they can find any working examples of such) but… Hello!… This is a movie about a talking bear that wears a red hat, a duffle coat and subsists solely on a diet of marmalade sandwiches! Don’t pick holes, okay?

Paddington 2 is a Christmas treat come early. A full-on feast of fun that you’ll want to gorge on until your trousers get uncomfortably tight; a gloriously colourful gift that is powered along by its Grade-A laughs rather than AA batteries; and best of all, when it’s all over there’s no washing up required (though you might be tempted to go back for seconds).

Andy Oliver

Thor: Ragnarok

(BBFC 12A 2hrs 10mins)

With Thor: Ragnarok, New Zealand director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) has ditched the Shakespearean miserabilism of Kenneth Branagh’s crack at the character and the muddled/studio-interference troubles of Alan Taylor’s The Dark World. What he’s done instead is embrace the goofy fun of The Guardians of the Galaxy and the inherent silliness of the whole “Men in capes and lycra” superhero genre to produce a movie that’s garlic and Kryptonite to anyone who doesn’t like fun: a kaleidoscopic romp bursting at the seams with laugh out loud one-liners, great characters and excitingly crazy action scenes.

The plot is pretty standard comic book fare (especially if you were reading Marvel comics in the 1970’s) and won’t stretch any viewer too far, although a little familiarity with previous Marvel movies might be helpful as Thor: Ragnarok picks up a few threads from the earlier entries. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard (the mythical home of the Norse gods) to discover his half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddlestone) has banished their father, Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins), and now sits at the throne of the realm.

Unfortunately for the squabbling siblings their long-forgotten sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), has escaped her millennia-old captivity and returned to herald the destruction of the gods and their kingdom (hence Ragnarok, The Doom of the Gods). Thor and Loki are then banished themselves, the god of thunder finding himself on the battle planet Sakaar where, to earn his freedom, hemust fight in gladiatorial games and comes up against an old rival/ally in the form of Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). With the help of allies old and new Thor must find his way back to Asgard to save the realm from his sister who wants only to destroy it.

Thor’s regular supporting cast all put in appearances including Heimdall (Idris Elba), Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander) and The Warriors Three (Ray Stephenson, Tadanobu Asano and Zachary Levi), bolstered by all new heroes and villains like Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Hela’s henchman Skurge (Karl Urban) and a gloriously over-the-top Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster. Oh, and as hinted at the end of his own movie, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) makes an appearance as well.

Chris Hemsworth has already shown a deft hand at comedy in the remakes of National Lampoon’s Vacation and Ghostbusters, but here he gets free reign to flex his considerable comedic muscle and grasps that chance with aplomb. When he and Mark Ruffalo (in both his Bruce Banner and Hulk modes) share the screen it’s like Withnail & I in space, permanently trapped on an inter-galactic holiday by mistake. Tom Hiddlestone’s Loki gets probably the best character arc of the movie and even at his most scheming he’s still a likeable presence. Cate Blanchett is clearly relishing her chance to go all-out panto villainess and Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster is Goldblum at his most Goldblum-iest, which is always a joy to behold. Tessa Thompson might be the breakout character though as Valkyrie, a bounty hunter who turns hero, she’s definitely the “Han Solo” of Thor: Ragnarok and Thompson is great in the role.

The baggy plot is not the reason to see Thor: Ragnarok though. It’s just the hook upon which all the fun and goofiness ultimately hangs. No, the real reason to spend your well-earned sheckles is the fun and goofiness. The movie sets out its stall right from the opening scene, in which Hemsworth spins in and out of frame as he engages in a barbed battle of “bants” with a horrifying antagonist whilst, at the same time, delivering a gloriously stylized (and hilarious) voice-over. It’s almost exhaustingly self-aware but never tips over into parody, it’s clear that everyone’s having a great time making this movie and the audience has an open invite to either jump on board or find the nearest exit.

The look of the film is obviously inspired by a thousand Heavy Metal magazine covers (as well as a thousand “heavy metal” album covers), it’s insanely vibrant and harks back to a time when legendary comic book artist Jack “King” Kirby was doing his greatest work on titles like Thor, The New Gods and The Fantastic Four.

There’s bad-ass women, hilarious gags, monsters, Led Zeppelin’s The Immigrant Song and a bonkers 1980’s style synth-pop score by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh; lively and exciting characters that you want to spend the whole movie with; top-notch CGI and practical effects; Jeff Goldblum…

That’s not to say Thor: Ragnarok is not without its problems, some of the world building and lore is flubbed (probably because it wasn’t as much fun to film as making the rest of the film) and a little too much time is spent developing Karl Urban’s Skurge, whose role in the movie is obvious from his first appearance. Because the rest of the movie is so enjoyable you do start to resent the moments when it has to go “serious”, but that’s a minor quibble and there’s really only about ten minutes that it could do without.

Fans who prefer the superhero canon to be a bit more straight-laced and serious faced might well baulk at the irreverence and meta-commentary of Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi obviously doesn’t believe in sacred cows or, if he does he really enjoys hitting them in the bum, and, credit where it’s due, Marvel has been brave enough to hand him a banjo big enough to do it. It was a big risk to let the director indulge in all his favourite idiosyncrasies, but it’s a gamble that Marvel/Disney should now be able to collect on: Thor: Ragnarok manages to make “more of the same” not only feel fresh and shiny-new but provides one of the most enjoyable visits to the cinema this year.

Andy Oliver

Equality for People with Disabilities in Colchester


The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.

For those who are not familiar with the the act, it recognises nine ‘protected characteristics’ with disability being one of them. The others are:

  • age
  • being or becoming a transsexual person
  • being married or in a civil partnership
  • being pregnant or on maternity leave
  • race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

In a nutshell it protects people who have a disability from discrimination in the workplace and wider society. It builds on the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995.

One provision relating to Disability is harmonising the thresholds for the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

It goes even further, under The Equality Act 2010 section 20 there is a duty:

“Where a provision, criterion or practice of A’s puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to relative matters of comparison with persons who are no disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to avoid the disadvantage”

My aim is a challenge that the refurbishment of toilet facilities in Castle Park in Colchester should include Changing Places toilets, so that people with disabilities can enjoy the same advantages of toilet facilities as those who are able bodied.

The debatable point will always be, is it reasonable?

In my opinion Castle Park provides playground facilities and sensory experiences for people with disabilities. These facilities are also enjoyed by able bodied children and adults. They enjoy toilet facilities to compliment their experience, so therefore it is reasonable to have equality for people with disabilities and additional sanitary needs to also have the same provision.

I will be bringing this to the attention of Colchester Borough Council, and have already started initial discussions through the back channels with several key council figures to gauge reaction.

In 1970 Lord Morris wrote what was referred to as the ‘Magna Carta’ for the disabled, and he soon became the First UK minister for the Disabled in 1974 (the year I was born). It faced heavy opposition from within his own party and his vision almost died when Harold Wilson PM called a General Election.

He was successful in making Britain the first country in the world to make a law to improve access and support for people with disabilities.

We should be proud of that.

The 1986 Disabled persons act and later the 1995 Disabled Discrimination Act built on Lord Morris’ original vision. It was not until the mid 1990’s that we started to see Disabled Toilets for people in wheelchairs start to become commonplace in public spaces and businesses.

As a nation we have only had Wheelchair accessible toilets for just over 20 years. It is my vision that we complete the circle and go further to include Changing Places toilets, and that in 10 years time Changing Places are commonplace across the UK.

I will also challenge Colchester Borough Council to fully endorse changing places to make Colchester not only a sanctuary town for refugees, but also for people with disabilities and all other characteristics of the Equalities Act.

Previously published on MEDIUM.

Scott Everest

The Snowman & The Ritual

THE SNOWMAN (BBFC 15 1hr 59mins)



There were 26 years between two of Hollywood’s most iconic chillers, Jaws (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Any hopes that lightning might strike for a third time are fading fast as, 26 years after Hannibal Lecter’s fava bean and chianti sides, the “great white hope”, an adaptation of bestselling Norwegian author Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman, fails to deliver a single shiver.

Based on the seventh of Nesbø’s successful Harry Hole (pronounced Hool-eh, so no jokes about Michael Fassbender’s Hole, okay?) detective novels, The Snowman struggles to find anything new to bring audiences unfamiliar to the author’s work whilst also alienating his existing fanbase. When elite crime-squad detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) investigates the disappearance of a young woman he begins to suspect that the elusive serial killer dubbed “The Snowman” may be on the prowl again after years of hibernation. With the help of brilliant rookie Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), Hole has to connect his investigation to decades-old cold cases if he wants to catch the killer before he (or she) strikes again.

Various characters appear, disappear, deliver exposition and generally muddy the waters of both the investigation and the movie’s plot: J.K. Simmons plays a sinister magazine mogul trying to engineer a major winter-sports event; Charlotte Gainsbourg as Hole’s ex, Rakel, who constantly interrupts proceedings with some crisis or another involving their teenage son Oleg (Michael Yates); James D’Arcy as the hostile husband of the disappeared woman; Chloe Sevigny as identical twin chicken-farmers (one of whom is basically just a head stuck on top of a snowman); and a precariously coiffured Val Kilmer who appears in flashback scenes as the detective in charge of the original Snowman case. The audience is led up and down numerous snow-blind alleys and served up more than a barrel’s worth of pickled red herrings on their way to a finale that’s as bafflingly impractical as it is emotionally unrewarding.

Fassbender is fine as the clinical detective who is only ever really alive when he’s challenged by his work and a hopeless alcoholic when he’s not. Rebecca Ferguson is the standout as the feisty and eager Katrine, though she’s never quite handed enough by the script to really get her teeth into. The rest of the cast do the best they can with what little they’re given, although I’d like to know the reasoning behind the bizarrely bad voice-dubbing of Val Kilmer’s appearances.

The real detective work that hangs around The Snowman though, is how such a fine pedigree of talents (both in front of and behind the camera) managed to produce such a mutt? Director Thomas Alfredson, the man behind the near-impeccable Let the Right One In and the equally classy Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, seems to have not just dropped the ball but left it on the bus on his way home from the shops, a bus that subsequently burst into flames, driven off a bridge and plunged into a lake full of ball-eating piranhas. Where Jaws and Silence of the Lambs relied on a slowly building intensity and an inexorable feeling of inevitable dread, The Snowman goes straight for lurid, grisly shocks straight out of the most basic eighties slasher canon. Martin Scorsese is on board as executive producer and top-notch editors Claire Simpson (Platoon, Wall Street, The Reader) and long-time Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker fail to pull the pieces together. Perhaps the fault lies at the feet of the writers? Peter Straughan (Frank, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Wolf Hall and the afore-mentioned Tinker, Tailor) and Hossein Amini (highs: Drive, The Wings of the Dove, lows: 47 Ronin, Snow White and the Huntsman) appear to have forgotten that what appears terrifying on the page may appear ridiculous on the screen, not the least of these being the snowmen which appear at every murder scene just come across as naughty or sad Olafs rather than signposts of evil.

Not the worst movie of the year by a long stretch but The Snowman is pretty abominable.


THE RITUAL (BBFC 15 1hr 34mins)


A bunch of chums (Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Sam Troughton and Robert James-Collier) go hiking in Sweden in memory of their friend Robert who was murdered in a convenience store robbery. Luke (Spall) is especially traumatised because he failed to intervene in the senseless killing and hid behind shelving unit during the crime. When one of the chums twists his ankle, a shortcut through a forest is decided upon with predictable horror movie results.

Dead animal hanging in the trees still dripping blood? Check. Creepy cabin in the woods? Check. Mysterious runes cut into trees/cabin/everything? Check.

Can you see where this is heading?

There’s good, solid performances by all but The Ritual is more of a trudge than a brisk hike. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, in fact there’s probably less. Sometimes you need a creepy local to say, “Stay out of the woods, lads” just to add a bit of context, which is something this movie sorely needs. It’s all a bit dull and you’ve seen it all before (unless this is your first horror movie, in which case you might experience minor goose-pimpling). It’s a calorie free rice cake of a movie, which is fine I suppose, I just like my calorie free rice cakes to be dipped in chocolate and smarties and served between two cream buns.

Andy Oliver


Autumn Around Castle Park

I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to to take some autumnal photographs in and around castle park. Until the sky did that weird red/beige thing.

Simon Crow

Blade Runner 2049



(BBFC 15 2hrs 43mins)

I’ve already booked a ticket to see Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 again.

Not because I loved it, at least not yet. I want to see it again to cement in my mind whether it’s a truly great movie or merely a mediocre picture draped in a hallucinatory coat of many colours; whether, or not, there is actually anything resembling life in its sterility or just an affectation of life; whether there is substance in its style or whether it’s an empty, albeit beautifully crafted, vessel. Or, maybe, the truth lies in all these things.

Set thirty years after the events of Ridley Scott’s original, Blade Runner 2049’s central character is K (Ryan Gosling), a limited-life replicant working as a detective (or Blade Runner) for the LAPD, tracking down the first-generation models who can live as long as, and live as, humans. During a routine mission to apprehend/eliminate one of those rogue replicants K stumbles upon a secret that, if given the oxygen of publicity, could destroy the delicate sense of order that exists between humans and the now million strong sub-caste of androids. Ordered by his police chief Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) to forget what he has learned, K disobeys and begins an investigation that takes him to the ruins of Las Vegas and directly to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) who is hiding therein. Meanwhile creepy oligarch Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who now owns the replicant manufacturing corporation, Tyrell, has his own bizarre and ruthless interest in K.

Gosling is back in zero-emotion, Drive/Only God Forgives mode, doing a fine job of channelling Le Samourai era Alain Delon, both enigmatic and unreadable. Harrison Ford is great as the haggard misanthrope Deckard (not really a stretch, I guess, but still…). I’m still not convinced by Jared Leto, he will forever be the poor man’s Daniel Day-Lewis to me, he’s not terrible but he does seem to suck the oxygen out of his every scene. A terrific, and overwhelmingly female, supporting cast is led by Robin Wright as the stern and severe Lt. Joshi, but there’s more than a few performances that one would struggle to describe as other than breakthrough: Sylvia Hoeks as the ruthless Luv, Ana de Armas as K’s designed for pleasure hologram Joi and watch out for an all too brief, but impactful, appearance by In Syria’s Hiam Abbas.

If you’ve seen this year’s earlier entrants in the unofficial competition to melt the audience’s eyeballs, Ghost in the Shell and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets you’ll have some idea of the colourful visual flair on display, but Blade Runner 2049 possesses some things neither of those earlier two seemed to understand: Composition. Through the eye of cinematographer Roger Deakins’ camera lens (director of photography on such classics as Fargo, The Assassination of Jesse James, The Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall amongst many, many others) the images have depth, context, a sense of the surreal, a sense of the monolithic and, above all, an understanding of stillness and beauty. Seriously, virtually every frame is breath-taking, see it on a big screen and take in every inch of neon-lit artistry as you would the work of a great master in a gallery.

Director Denis Villeneuve returns to two of his favourite themes, two recurrent ideas that power all his films: How does man fight monsters without becoming a monster and the inherent hopefulness of female nature. He’s a director whose opus tends toward the exhaustingly tense (Incendies, Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival), so why, many might ask, is Blade Runner 2049 so slow and (I hesitate to say it, but) boring? I think it’s an interesting choice to slow everything down to a crawl, to allow time for the audience to really think about the film as it unfolds, in many ways it’s an imitation of the work of Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris, Stalker, Andrei Rublev). It’s deliberate, thoughtful and packed but it’s very, very long. People with short attention spans or who hate having to put any thought into a movie might want to avoid and sit at home with their Explody-Robots IV dvd. If you enjoy sci-fi as allegory, fill your boots, there’s plenty to tuck into here.

Despite its undisputed influence on not only movies but upon design and culture, I’ve never really been much of a fan of the original Blade Runner. It’s just too full of holes, lacks a believable through-line, it’s an exercise in design over content and chucks in things because they look or sound cool rather than having any importance. There are multiple versions out there and it took Scott five attempts at recutting it before he actually understood what he was trying to say. Blade Runner 2049 builds upon the aesthetics of Scott’s original, cherry picking the best ideas and expanding upon them to reach a natural conclusion. It’s much closer to Phillip K. Dick’s dystopian vision, in its existential ponderings if nothing else. In fact, the less familiar you are with the original the better, I think it works best if you are not wedded to the mythology of Blade Runner and everything that has been written about it.

Like I say, I’m genuinely torn by Blade Runner 2049 and maybe I should have written this after that second viewing. I think it might be one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made, but I’m not sure.

Andy Oliver


Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks for October 2017



Christina Johnson – Blessing

Although this is all about concerts taking place in October, I would like to kick-off this column with information on a young Suffolk Soprano soloist Christina Johnson who will be singing in Colchester’s St Botolph’s Church on Saturday 30 September at 7pm. Christina is mid-way through her tour promoting her debut CD, Blessing and here is a sneak peek for you to hear and see Christina before her concert on Saturday.

Christina Johnston (originally from Framlingham, Suffolk) is said by many to be one of a kind in the vocal world. Despite her young age she is already making a name for herself in the classical world with her vocal range that most could only dream of.

On Saturday, she will be accompanied by the Russian coach, Inga Goldsmith who works with the likes of, Valeri Gergiev at the Marinski Theatre in St Petersburg.

Tickets are available to buy at: or on the door.

Colchester’s Roman River Music Autumn Festival

Over the last few weeks, the Roman River Music Autumn Festival has brought a wealth of music to the heart of Colchester, such as outstanding international classical musicians, pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, Natalie Clein, The King’s Singers making its festival debut and much, much more.

Not only does it attract outstanding international musicians to our area but the festival continues to form relationships and assist in the development of our aspiring local musicians. The festival ends on Sunday 1 October at 6pm showcasing work with young players from the Colne Valley Youth Orchestra plus contributions from local singers and other musicians joining the Festival Orchestra for its finale.

On Thursday 28 September, The King’s Singer’s made its debut at the festival with music ranging from William Byrd to Bob Chilcott.  This concert kick-started the festival’s residency at St Mary the Virgin in Stoke by Nayland, one of the largest churches in Suffolk, with a history stretching back to the 10th century.  On Friday 29 September at 8pm there is a re-orchestration of another of Mahler’s symphonies and tomorrow evening there is a performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor.


Lunchtime recitals

Early next month, Charles Hine will be performing Clarinet music accompanied by pianist Ian Ray at the launch of the Lion Walk Lunchtime Autumn concert series. Wednesday, October 4, 1pm, Lion Walk United Reformed Church, Colchester. Free concert with retiring collection.

For information on all of the weekly concerts, please visit

Ian Ray is also involved in the Moot Hall organ and he will be busy the day before at the launch of the Autumn 2017 lunchtime recitals on the magnificent Edwardian Organ in Colchester’s elegant Town Hall . On  Tuesday at 1pm Daniel Gárdonyi  will be performing music by Kodály and Mendelssohn.

Click here to find out more about the series

Music for Children

It seems that every month a new study is published confirming the benefits music can bring. A recent survey carried out by YouGov stated that 47% of people said more children should be inspired to learn an instrument and have the experience of playing and hearing music. Here are a couple of ways to hear Classical Music this October.

Over the October school holidays, the City of London Sinfonia presents its Lullaby Concert series in both Essex and Suffolk. The idea is to present orchestral music in a friendly way to youngsters aged 2 –  7. The first concert is at the Tendring Education Centre on Saturday 21 October.

Further information available from the Clacton Tourist Information Centre (01255 6866633).

The family concert, Around the World in 60 Minutes, presents a musical world tour inspired by each continent. James Mayhew will be providing live illustrations on the stage capturing the spirit of each land to be visited musically. This concert takes place in the award-winning Saffron Hall in Saffron Walden at 3pm on Sunday 1 October.

Tickets: £12 (0845 548 7650)

String Quartets and more

If you enjoy Chamber music, there are plenty of concerts to enjoy in and around Colchester. Here are just a few for you!

Now in its 92nd season, the Ipswich Chamber Music Society continues to hold concerts in the Great Hall in Ipswich School. The Nash Ensemble, a most distinguished group, constantly appearing at London’s Wigmore Hall, are coming to Ipswich to perform Beethoven’s Septet and Schubert’s Octet, opus 166. The venue is intimate with excellent acoustics and fine views of the performers. Tickets are £15. For all details see

The Castalian String Quartet will be performing at Stour Valley Arts & Music on Sunday 22 October at 4pm. For more information and tickets please visit or telephone 01206 298426

And just like buses ….. there are two concerts on 29 October! First up, The Kingfisher Ensemble will be performing at the Lion Walk United Reformed Church in Colchester at 2.45pm on Sunday 29 October.  Please visit here for

And last but by no means least, over in the beautiful church in Wrabness, The Solem String Quartet will be performing String Quartets by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven also on Sunday 29 October at 4pm.

Tickets £12 from Liz Connah  01255 886163

For full information please visit

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


Kingsman: The Golden Circle



(BBFC 15 2hrs 21mins)

Oh dear.

There’s no easy way to say this but Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the follow up to director Matthew Vaughan and writer Jane Goldman’s fun, breezy, occasionally off-colour, occasionally shockingly violent but always exciting spy-spoof Kingsman: The Secret Service, is a bit of a slog. It’s a “Tough Mudder” of a movie, an exhausting trial of endurance, and the only prize waiting for those crawling across its finish line is to sniff a bucket of poop. It’s not without a few fun moments but unfortunately, as a whole, it’s a disappointment.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the council estate raised hero of the first movie, returns as a now fully-fledged member of ultra-dapper secret service organisation The Kingsmen, to face an all-new super-villain and an all-new threat to World peace. Poppy (Julianne Moore), the Martha Stewart/Kirstie Allsop-ish head of a major drugs cartel has been lacing her product with a lethal virus thereby infecting her entire userbase, an antidote to which will only be forthcoming if the US President (Bruce Greenwood) ends the war on drugs. The problem here being that POTUS sees Poppy’s plan as the way to solve the drugs problem once and for all.

Tired of the Kingsmen’s meddling Poppy destroys the organisation leaving only Eggsy and Kingsman Quartermaster Merlin (Mark Strong) as the surviving members. The pair then bounce around the world, team up with their US counterparts The Statesmen and discover that veteran Kingsman Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is still alive (despite being shot in the head at point-blank range in the first film), albeit suffering amnesia.

If you’ve seen the first movie or, indeed, any James Bond movie ever you’ll know where this is all heading: set-piece upon set-piece leading to an all-out, mega-action finale.

The problem is that it takes so long to get there and those set-pieces become increasingly tiresome, one extended sequence in which Eggsy has to… ahem, how should I describe this?… deposit a fingertip mounted tracker inside the genitals of a bad guy’s girlfriend (Poppy Delevingne) at Glastonbury becomes a particularly wearing test of endurance. So much time and effort is put into that sequence and none of it is really worth the pay-off, which, in many ways, sums up the whole movie.

The introduction of The Statesmen is a pleasant enough diversion but they are so poorly served that they feel like a wasted opportunity. Stars like Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry are painfully under-used and only Pablo Pascal gets a decent amount of screen time. Bizarrely Elton John (yes, Elton John) gets more to do in The Golden Circle than many of the other extended cameos, that’s how weird this movie is. The wonky use of The Statesmen is sort of resolved in the final third of the film but by then patience and suspension of belief has already been stretched to their limits.

Much of the criticism of The Secret Service was aimed at a particularly jarring and ill-advised gag at that movies end and chances were that The Golden Circle was always going to respond to those complaints by gleefully asking, “You think that was bad? Here, hold my pint…” And it certainly doesn’t hold back in its attempts to shock, in fact it tries way too hard (as evidenced by that Glastonbury sequence) and as a result sinks to Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brothers Grimsby levels of lad-mag humour. Great if you like that sort of thing, alienating if you find it don’t and, whatever you feel about it, it adds very little except bum-numbing minutes to an already too long movie.

It’s understandable that they’d want to bring back the always likeable Colin Firth as Eggsy’s mentor Harry but the way it’s done is a cheap cop-out (apparently the application of some super-Savlon can repair the damage of being shot in the face), a cheat which removes any life or death tension. Harry believes he’s a lepidopterist (butterfly collector) because of his amnesia and is perfectly happy and content until Eggsy forces him to relive a past trauma to snap him out of it. It’s a stretch to believe that the Eggsy of The Secret Service would be the callous Eggsy of The Golden Circle to take that away from him. It’s all too contrived and jarring and sells out the characters for a plot that doesn’t deserve them.

For all its fun moments, of which there are too few, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is too dogged by forced motivations, forced situations, increasingly weightless action sequences (all of which try to be as iconic as the church massacre of The Secret Service, none of which are successful), flaky CGI and wasted opportunities to hang together as an enjoyable whole. It’s a shame and I hope that it’s not a franchise killer, I’d love to see more of The Kingsmen, The Statesmen, Eggsy, Merlin, et al. Vaughan and Goldman just need to understand that more is not always necessarily more, sometimes you need to touch the brakes to get around the corner with speed.

Andy Oliver

American Assassin



(BBFC18 1Hr 51Mins)

Unlike Mother! the last movie I reviewed, if you want to celebrate toxic masculinity then American Assassin is the movie for you, my friend. A film so rampantly stupid that it doesn’t have the intelligence to recognise just how rampantly stupid it is. If movies wore hats, American Assassin would proudly be donning a red #MAGA baseball cap.

Mitch Rapp (The Maze Runner’s Dylan O’Brien) is on holiday in Europe with his girlfriend when a Tunisia style beach attack by Islamic terrorists leaves her and many other sun worshippers horribly murdered. Rapp then goes rogue in an attempt to track down the killers. His minor league successes eventually bring him to the attention of CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) who quickly recruits him for some kind of black ops unit or other under the auspices and training of Gulf War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Cue training montages and a plethora of blink-and-you-miss-them glamorous locations which are basically pretty backdrops for a lot of punching and shooting and murdering (mostly of young and attractive women). The second half of the movie seems completely at odds with the first half as Rapp is put on the trail of arch-villain “Ghost” (Taylor Kitsch), a former pupil of Hurley’s (a point, at which, I placed my head in my hands and felt like weeping). It’s all very “Seen it all before”, ho-hum, Jack Ryan/Jason Bourne/Jack Reacher-lite (if any of those movies were rooted in Alt-Right sensibilities, which thankfully they weren’t).

I watched American Assassin with a mixture of dismay, anger, disappointment, confusion, embarrassment and more than once had to bite my tongue to stop myself from shouting at the screen. Did the film-makers have no idea about the irony of America recruiting disenfranchised young men to go kill their enemies? It’s a movie that disgustingly bends over backwards to either humiliate or murder its female characters. It doesn’t have the backbone to stand by its own convictions, heinous as they are, its “White Saviour” storyline morphing into the worst kind of Star Wars Obi-Wan/Darth Vader/Luke rip-off. Even the action sequences can’t save it from ignominy, poorly choreographed, limp and lifeless.

It is an awful, awful movie. Casually racist and misogynistic, it definitely has an audience in mind, probably the kind that carries Tiki torches to rallies, hide behind anime avatars on social media and I think we all know which way they vote in US Presidential elections. Please avoid this movie or they’ll make more.

Andy Oliver

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