17:52 Thursday 12th September 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[C]HRIS MANN: Right now, let’s discuss tomorrow and Saturday, when you can have a sneaky peek behind the doors of all sorts of Cambridge buildings not usually open to the public. Examples include Christ’s College Gothic library, Cambridge University’s real tennis court, and the chance to try a formal dining at Corpus Christi’s 19th century hall. To explain more, here’s Dane Comeford from Open Cambridge.
DANE COMERFORD: We’ve got a whole bunch of different activities that are put on at University buildings, college buildings, and places around the city, so people can have a look around interesting things that they don’t normally have a chance to see. From beautiful libraries .. the mosque is open just off Mill Road. Museums are doing special tours. Libraries are doing special tours. Theatres are open. John Lewis is open. There’s a punting tour. All sorts of stuff.
CHRIS MANN: So things that people don’t normally get to look at, or some of it anyway. How difficult was it to persuade people like Christ’s College with their Gothic library. How difficult was it to persuade them to open up?
DANE COMERFORD: People are really keen to get involved. Obviously the colleges are very proud of their history, and the collections that they have. But they’re really happy to have opportunity to show people. And it’s also a call to action to residents of Cambridge who may not necessarily think, oh, today I’m going to go and have a look around the Parker Library, or have a look around Kings College. Maybe.they wouldn’t normally think of that. So it’s a nice opportunity for people to go. And actually this is the weekend where you can go and have a look around. It’s the sixth year that Open Cambridge has been running, and there’s been a tremendous response, not only from people in the University, but people from all over the city and elsewhere. people come to Cambridge for the weekend to check out all we have on offer, and it’s really lovely to have that mixture.
CHRIS MANN: One of the things that caught my eye was this formal dining at Corpus Christi’s 19th century hall. That sounds rather grand.
DANE COMERFORD: That’s tomorrow night. Yes. There’s over a hundred people who’ve signed up to a lovely meal. I was there last year. It was delicious. And it’s not that expensive, but it’s completely fully booked. And people are able to dress up, dress to impress, and have a lovely meal inside a really beautiful dining room in Corpus Christi. Incidentally, Corpus Christi was founded by people from the City of Cambridge, so it’s a really nice connection of getting involved with the people of Cambridge and a college which has it’s roots in Cambridge. It’s a really nice connection I think.
CHRIS MANN: Yes. I was there recently for the Taming of the Shrew in the Master’s Garden at Corpus Christi, which was quite magnificent I have to say. So there’s also the Cambridge University real tennis court. Tell us about that Dane.
DANE COMERFORD: Yes there is. I had a game of real tennis about eight months ago or so. And it’s a really .. it’s a little bit like a mixture between squash and tennis and something like bagatelle. And it’s a really crazy, it’s very different to what we would see in the summer at Wimbledon for instance. And the racquets are really heavy, and the balls are really heavy. So it’s a chance to have a little look around an exhibition that talks about the history of real tennis, how to play it. Some people, if they want to, people can sign up and join the Real Tennis Club. There’s only several thousand people worldwide that play it, and there aren’t very many courts. There’s probably a dozen or so courts in the UK, and we’re really lucky in Cambridge that there are two housed in the same building. So it’s a real good opportunity to see something quite quirky actually.
CHRIS MANN: And I guess one of the things about this weekend is the chance to walk in the steps of history and famous people. A lot of these places you’re talking about really are truly truly historic. If you had your choice Dane, well you have a choice because you’ve seen everything, but what can you really recommend to us? What would you pick out?
DANE COMERFORD: Sometimes it’s really nice to have a chance to have a look around the libraries, actually. some of the old libraries. So Queens’, John’s and Corpus Christi Colleges have really beautiful libraries , which have some amazing illustrations in absolutely ancient books. If you’re in town, shopping or something, wander around and pop in. And you can just see some really interesting illustrations. I remember seeing something last year about an elephant that had a little castle on top of it in the Parker Library in Corpus Christi College actually, and it was just amazing to see that these things are so ancient, but so colourful and vivid. It’s a bit bonkers but beautiful at the same time.
CHRIS MANN: Ah bonkers. We sometimes like that. Now any charge for this? What do people have to do to qualify to get to see these incredible places?
DANE COMERFORD: A lot of the things are booked up already. There’s a massive demand for Open Cambridge, because most of the things are free. In fact everything is free apart from the dinner that we talked about. Oh and the Bridge the Gap walk on Sunday. And people are fully signed up for that already, which we’re still taking bookings on the day, so people can turn up at nine thirty, ten, or ten thirty on Sunday 15th up at Jesus Green. It’s twenty pounds. All the money goes to charity. So people can have a look around the nine colleges and raise money and have a nice wander around with their families. But other than that, everything’s free. And there are lots of things that are drop-in, but some of the things have booked up, and the best thing that people can do to check out the things that are available is obviously have a look online, and the website is www.cam.ac.uk/open-cambridge. And I think the reason most things are free is that we’re very grateful to the sponsors, which this year are .R.G.Carter and Cambridge University Press. So it’s really lovely that again, a local company or a couple of local companies, are able to fund the opening of some of these places that are not normally open to the public.
CHRIS MANN: Dane, have a great weekend. Thanks for that.
DANE COMERFORD: Thanks very much. OK. See you there.