Open Cambridge 2015

christs17:50 Friday 14th August 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Let’s talk about Open Cambridge. A very special weekend, 11th to 13th September Cambridge opens its doors. Let’s find out more now from the team, because they’re going to be opening the website for bookings on Monday, so we need to arm you in advance. And to tell us all about it from the team at Open Cambridge let’s welcome Ellen Thornton to tell us what it’s all about.
ELLEN THORNTON: Open Cambridge is a three day event celebrating the heritage of Cambridge, looking at places that are usually closed to the public, or perhaps charge admission, or even just places that people wouldn’t consider exploring. It’s a part of the Heritage Open Day scheme, which is a national project aimed to do just that.
CHRIS MANN: And it’s got bigger year after year. It started off as a small idea, it might be nice to let people have a peek at this and that. And it’s just proved hugely popular, hasn’t it?
ELLEN THORNTON: Yes. We’re in our eighth year now, and this year we have over eighty free events. We programmed the events just based on our own curiosity. So walking round the city, looking at things that we think might be intriguing, going on responses that we get year on year from previous participants, what they would quite like to explore. And we’re incredibly fortunate that Cambridge is just full to the brim with places that are interesting and intriguing.
CHRIS MANN: And I think it shows that the University and other places are responding to the idea that they should open their doors. They shouldn’t just be these cloistered places only for the select few. That actually it’s a good thing to let people see, because some of it is quite magnificent.
ELLEN THORNTON: Absolutely. Yes. And as I said there’s eighty events this year, and many of them haven’t featured in previous years. Some of them have, and have had a bit of a break and returned. And the nice thing about the programme is that as you said it looks at the University, but also the city, and it explores the history of both, and shares some of the incredible things that they have behind doors, and also things that are open to the public, but people don’t necessarily know that they can explore usually.
CHRIS MANN: OK. Now in previous years quite often they’ve sold out, or the tickets have gone very quickly. So the reason we’re talking today is that they’re available from ten o’clock on Monday morning.
ELLEN THORNTON: Yes they are.
CHRIS MANN: On the website. But before we give the details of that, let’s just look at some of the highlights. What kind of places are available?
ELLEN THORNTON: The programme is incredibly diverse. It has everything from behind the scenes at John Lewis to Cambridge Fire Station, the Mosque, the ADC Theatre, onto guided walking tours of external places in the city, but also college gardens, libraries, museums, galleries. It’s really really full to the brim. There’s plenty to do. And much of it is drop-in to meet the popular demand.
CHRIS MANN: As in you just turn up
ELLEN THORNTON: Yes. You just turn up. So the programme or the website would advertise the time and the time slot that the event is open, and then you just turn up as and when. Some of them will have drop-in tours that happen throughout the day that you can just pick up. Others you book on for. But the drop-in things are there just to meet demand really.
CHRIS MANN: And it’s not a money making venture is it?
ELLEN THORNTON: No not at all. Not at all. The premise of Heritage Open Days is that the weekend is free, and in fact there’s only one thing that charges, which I can talk about later, and that’s the Open Cambridge Dinner at Churchill College. But the majority, everything else, is free.
CHRIS MANN: I’ve already spoken to the Curator at the Churchill Library ..
ELLEN THORNTON: Yes. Allen Packwood.
CHRIS MANN: Yes. .. about that dinner, which is very special. Because they’re celebrating fifty years since Sir Winston Churchill died. And, am I right, seventy years since the end of the war.
ELLEN THORNTON: Yes. Seventy years since the end of the Second World War.
CHRIS MANN: When he was Prime Minister. So a very special dinner on 11th?
ELLEN THORNTON: 11th September. Yes.
CHRIS MANN: So if you had the chance to pick out the things that you wanted to go to, what would you select?
ELLEN THORNTON: If I had the chance and I wasn’t organising and having to work? I would head down to the Cambridge Boathouses on Saturday. Cambridge is iconic and very well known for rowing, and for the first time this year we’re actually opening up the Boathouses. The Cambridge ’99s Club are opening their doors and taking out some of the boats, so people can see what happens and what life is like when you’re racing in a team on the river. I would definitely head down there. They’ve got some interesting things planned. I would try to get behind the scenes of John Lewis. I absolutely love John Lewis and I think it’s a fascinating building, and there’s also some wonderful archive material that’s been donated especially for the event from the Museum of Cambridge. And there’s some fantastic photos that I’ve seen. I’d also go to the Fire Station. This year they’re having a really interesting twist ..
CHRIS MANN: So it’s men in lycra, whatever it is they wear when they’re rowing, shopping, and now men in ..
ELLEN THORNTON: Men in uniform. Yes.
CHRIS MANN: There’s a theme emerging here.
ELLEN THORNTON: Speaking of uniform, the firemen are dressing up in their traditional 1939 uniform. They have an old fire engine from 1939, and they’ll be there on hand to discuss fire-fighting in World War Two, a topic that will be really interesting.
CHRIS MANN: Absolutely. And how would you crown it off? Are there any evening events?
ELLEN THORNTON: Yes. On Friday there’s the Open Cambridge Dinner, which we just briefly discussed, which is a fantastic event, and a really good opportunity to experience a Formal Hall, which is a very iconic part of being a student at Cambridge.
CHRIS MANN: So High dinner.
ELLEN THORNTON: High dinner. Yes. It’s not formal black tie, but we do say dress to impress. And it’s a lovely opportunity for members of our team and just the general pubic to get together and enjoy a Cambridge college in that way.
CHRIS MANN: So you can have a full day for nowt.
CHRIS MANN: See all the highlights of Cambridge. OK. So booking for those things that are bookable starts ten o’clock on Monday.
ELLEN THORNTON: Ten o’clock Monday morning. And it’s incredibly popular. The phone lines do go crazy. So we push people and recommend people to look on the website, which is And you can book from ten am on the website. Alternatively you can call our booking line, which is 01223 766766. And bookings are open Monday to Friday ten ’til three.
CHRIS MANN: Brilliant. That’s Open Cambridge. Thank you so much Ellen Thornton.