Moving mountains

Liz Nicholls

Angelina Messenger tells us about her role as a mountain leader and her love for life in the Chilterns

When it comes to aspirations and living life to the full, it’s fair to say that Angelina Messenger sets high standards for herself.

The 47-year-old mum of twin boys who lives in Lane End has a degree in archaeology from Reading University (becoming a member of Mensa many years later), sails regularly at Maidenhead Sailing Club and is an experienced and qualified mountain leader and National Navigation Award Scheme provider.

“As a family, we all climb together at indoor walls and outside on the crags when we can get to them,” she says of her husband and boys, who have just started secondary school in Marlow. “My job and personal hobbies definitely merge into what would be considered mountaineering, but nothing on as grand a scale as Everest, yet…”

Angelina began walking and camping in the hills and mountains as a child growing up in Surrey and has felt the urge to explore ever since. “I later took up mountain biking and adventure racing, kayaking and climbing; I seem to have a never-ending need to try new things. I remember poring over maps, atlases and all things geography as a teenager.

“I love being outside in our beautiful countryside and mountains, and I’m passionate about improving wellbeing through that connection with the natural world.

“I also love sharing my experience and helping other people to achieve new skills and have amazing adventures.”

However adventure starts close to home and Angelina loves where she lives, especially the area around Maidensgrove for some wide open space on the common and its quaint villages… “I’d also pick St Mary the Virgin Church in Radnage,” she adds. “Built far back in the 12th century by the Knights Templar, the inside is always open and tranquil, and it has some fascinating wall paintings that span 600 years. And the views from the hills as you approach it are so picturesque.

“I often use Coffee on the Green in Stokenchurch to meet groups for navigation courses because it’s so well positioned for access from the motorway and the bus service, as well as offering great service and cake! I love the Chilterns’ rolling chalk hills with the special and unique species of plants and animals, the extensive walking network and the conservation work going on to protect our precious natural landscapes.”

This year Angelina is increasing the number of walks and courses she’s running locally, and is looking forward to welcoming people and local groups to gain skills and experience that lead them on to adventures beyond in other beautiful and remote upland areas of the UK.

Please visit angelinamountainleader.com

Review – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Liz Nicholls

It turns out everybody’s talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and it’s easy to see why.

With energy levels flagging and skies gloomier than Sheffield smog everyone’s in need of a boost at this time of year.

So it’s a delight that the award-winning hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has landed at Oxford’s New Theatre.

The opening night shone brighter than a rave rainbow thanks to star performances and plenty of laughs from Ivano Turco (Get Up, Stand Up!, Cinderella) as Jamie New, the indomitable stage legend Darren Day as Hugo/Loco Chanelle and Shobna Gulati (Coronation Street, Brassic).

The ”musical for all” tells of Jamie New, who is 16 and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Supported by his brilliant loving mum and surrounded by his friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, into the spotlight with plenty of humour courtesy of drag queens and superb support from a star cast who are clearly having a ball. Their northern humour, accompanied by the live orchestra and fabulous costume and stage sets are sure to have you feeling brighter and full of hope as you strut out into the rainy streets.

Set to an original score of catchy pop tunes that will ‘blow the roof off the theatre’ (Mail on Sunday) by lead singer-songwriter of The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells and writer Tom MacRae (Doctor Who). Choreographed by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Kate Prince (Into The Woods, Some Like It Hip Hop, SYLVIA, Message In A Bottle). This ‘sparking coming-of-age musical’ (The Times) will have everybody talking about Jamie for years to come.

Darren Day said “It’s a wonderfully uplifting show filled with great music and humour and has a beautiful message at its heart. I’m thrilled to be part of it.”

Following a record-breaking three-year West End residency, sold out UK & Ireland Tour and Amazon studios award-winning film, the show runs at New Theatre until 30th January. Watch the trailer here

Farmer Kaleb Cooper star Q&A

Liz Nicholls

Liz Nicholls chats to Clarkson’s Farm star & dad Kaleb Cooper, 25, whose book Britain According To Kaleb is out now and whose UK theatre tour starts in January

Q. Nice to see you, Kaleb, where are you now? “Well, as you can see I’m currently in a field. I’ve just jumped off the tractor to speak with you because we’re muckspreading just over there, then you don’t have to heart the tractor buzzing away! I do apologise if you can hear a load of beeping. It’s a busy time of year; we’re doing about 114 hours a week – it’s pretty busy, and doing the other jobs that get missed out during the harvest time.”

Q. How do you keep your energy up? “I think I run on adrenaline. I love doing what I do so it’s never hard to stay out all night or all day, not having a lunch break. I have a dream and I’m going to get to that dream eventually. It’s pushing me to that place. In the back of my head I always say to myself: dreams don’t work unless you do. My dream is to own my own farm. I’d love to get to the point where I can wake up in the morning with my little kids and walk out on to my own farm and say: in that field over there, I’m going to plant wheat in it because I want to, not because anyone else told me to… And that’s the dream!”

Q. Would you like your kids to go into farming? “I’ve got a little boy and a little girl now and I would love them to take it ever but I would never push anyone to do anything they wouldn’t want to do. If they decide they don’t want to do farming but try their luck as a hot-shot lawyer in London, then great… I just hope they know that I’ll never, ever visit!”

Q. You love where you live don’t you? “I love it. Chipping Norton for me is the most amazing place in the world and I’ve always said that. I just hope everyone wakes up in the morning like I do & feels ‘I’m home’. This is my home, this is where I’m going to spend the rest of my life, I hope. If a farm comes up & it’s not too expensive and I can stay close to home, I’ll be happy.”

Q. You’re going to be on the road soon, though are you nervous? “It’s been work hard, play hard all summer, and I’ve just sat down and thought **** me, I’m going on tour soon, I can’t wait for this. It starts on the 25th January and we’re going everywhere. I am a little bit nervous about it, though, yes, but I hope everyone will be really welcoming and if I get a nosebleed on stage just know it’s normal and it will go away. I don’t like crowds and I think everyone knows I don’t like being touched so I think everyone respects that. It’s a miracle I’ve got two kids!”

Q. What hairdo are you going to go for? “I think I’ve got to bring the perm back don’t you? I miss the curly. This year has been so stressful for me – look at my forehead [lifts fringe] – it’s just growing! I hope it will all be ok.”

Q. How’s Gerald? “Yeah Gerald’s really good – he’s got the mullet still! I would never ever get one, because I’ve got the king of mullets standing by my side. I can’t compete!”

Q. One of the things that endeared you to the nation was how blunt you have always been to Jeremy Clarkson and how you were unfussed by ‘celebrity’. Do you and Jeremy get on in real life? “Yeah. I’ve taught him a little bit of farming; it could me more but he doesn’t listen to me. He’s got a little knowledge and that’s dangerous! But I always say this for him: he’s taught me about the world of television and he’s the most amazing man for that because that man is a TV star, he knows what he’s doing in that world. We do quite a bit together – we go to the pub. If we’ve had an argument the day before we might not see each other for two days. We argue – I don’t think that’s ever going to change! But at the end of the day, I’m right and he’s wrong every time so…”

Q. Apart from the hair, have you changed? “People say I’m a celebrity now, well I’m not! I’m out here in the middle of a field, I don’t believe in celebrity format and I’m no different! People freeze up when they see someone famous but when I see a celebrity I just tell them the truth, which is how I was with Jeremy. I’m a chatty guy, I chat to everyone. I still drive my old beaten-up truck and people are lovely & chatty with me. Nothing’s changed!”

Q. You said you didn’t own any books, and that you hadn’t really read one, so how have you now written two?! “I don’t read books, own books… but I have got a book shelf now and it’s building up slowly – I’ve got The World According to Kaleb on it and now I’ve even got [new book] Britain According to Kaleb, and one of Jeremy’s too! I was a bit nervous about writing a book but I’ve got a recorder I keep in the tractor and as I’m going along doing my jobs, I record what I’ve got to say which is a win-win situation. Then, on a rainy day I can write it all up. There’s been a bit more googling for this book, Britain According To Kaleb, so I apologise if my tractor lines are a bit wonky next spring! I was finding out about different places across the country. Scotland, for example, is a phenomenal place. I thought, ooh, I can go on tour and see all these places and see what farming’s all about around Britain, not just here.”

“Dreams don’t work unless you do”

Kaleb Cooper

Q. Any local traditions you love? “Before I got too busy I used to go to the duck racing… Even though my duck lost I was still smiling at the end of the day and happy for the person who won. And that to me is how you sum up these events – it’s the community coming together and being really happy to all be there together. I’m a bit scared to try the wife-carrying – not because carrying my missus will be hard, but more because I know that if we lose, I’m going to get a b******ing when I get home! My other half is very competitive, you see. I can carry hay bales all day long but when you’re carrying someone precious to you it’s quite scary.”

Q. Can you tell us about your love of cider? “Yes, I don’t drink beer so I drink cider. I don’t yet own a farm but I know where loads and loads of apples are which go to waste every year so I thought why don’t I just pick them up and make my own cider? That’s what I do and I’m very grateful that Henry Weston takes the apples in and I can go with 50kg or 3kg in a bag and they still take it and we make some incredible cider. It’s a very dangerous drink!”

Q. You recently launched an agricultural bursary through the Royal Agricultural University which is great. What would you do to help young farmers? “Thank you, I’m trying to use my influence with young farmers’ groups, bursaries and help like that. But, I’m going to say it again: remember dreams don’t work unless you do. Young people who remember this will fly through the industry and do better than I am!”

Q. Do you still love to sing? “Haha! Stick me in a tractor and I just sing – I can’t help it. Jeremy took me to a concert the other day with The Who and I’ll always love The Wurzels!”

+ Britain According to Kaleb, The Wonderful World of Country Life, by Kaleb, is out now in hardback, ebook & audio. His theatre tour starts on 25th January and includes dates at Reading Hexagon on 25th February & G Live Guildford on 28th February. Book your tickets at Kaleblive.com

Christmas fun to enjoy in Bucks

Liz Nicholls

Have you been naughty or nice? Get your skates on to enjoy all the Christmas highlights coming up, including Father Christmas!

He’s making a list… He’s checking it twice… He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Yes the big man himself, Father Christmas, is taking time out from his busy schedule to visit lots of children in Buckinghamshire this month.

In fact, he and his elves will be at Amersham Field Centre, HP7 0QR, 11am-5pm on Sunday 10th, Saturday 16th, Sunday 17th & Wednesday 20th December, for an eco-friendly Santa’s Winter Wonderland. Explore the enchanted woodland with the elves, make a Christmas decoration in the workshop, help find Santa’s missing code and meet Santa in his grotto for your elf graduation certificate, elf hat and gift. Find out more at field-studies-council.org

“Father Christmas will also star at Marlow’s Christmas Fair”

Another planet-friendly highlight is the Eco Elves Tree-Cycle at Wycombe’s Eden Shopping Centre until Christmas Eve. With help from Mrs Claus, children can make decorations using recycled craft materials (Sunday morning SEND sessions). £3pp + booking fee at edenshopping.co.uk/events/the-eco-elves-tree-cycle

Father Christmas will also star at Marlow’s Christmas Fair at The Grand Hall and Versailles Suite on 2nd December. And we can’t mention the big man and Marlow without, of course, another mention for Santa’s Fun Run on 3rd December! santasfunrun.org

Missenden Abbey Christmas Market, 12-4pm on Sunday, 3rd December, will offer gift and craft stalls where you can support local businesses and perhaps find special gifts for friends and family. Watch out for favourite children’s book and film characters on the day. Little ones are also sure to love the merry-go-round and bungee jumping trampolines, plus a little bird tells me Father Christmas will star. Arrive hungry to tuck into pizza, pasta, hot doughnuts, cakes and more. £4pp, £2 children three-12 years; tickets on the door or book at ticketsource.co.uk/missenden-abbey-christmas-market-2023

Father Christmas will return on his giant red tractor at Hogshaw Farm & Wildlife Park (formerly Green Dragon Eco Farm), MK18 3LA. Up until Christmas Eve, you can wander through the festive forest, past the magical wishing tree and through the snow pits to Santa and his grotto, complete with adorable live reindeer. Share your wishlist, before stopping for a tasty treat and collecting a special present. Book your tickets at hogshawfarm.co.uk

A pop-up ice skating rink will give you a warm welcome at Chiltern View Garden Centre in Stoke Mandeville, HP22 5GX, all the way to New Year’s Eve (closed Christmas Day) with the last session 8pm (6pm on Sundays, 5pm Christmas Eve & NYE). If you’re the best-dressed Elf on a Saturday night you could win £150, and you can book in for Breakfast with Santa and the fabulous Drag Queen Bingo 6-9pm on 3rd 10th December with Cosmic. Visit chilternviewicerink.co.uk to book.

The mesmerising winter light trail lights the gorgeous grounds of Waddesdon Manor until 17th December. Wander the Aviary gardens to enjoy glowing orbs, starbursts, 3D birds and giant shooting stars set to music plus animated projections on to the manor’s façade, inspired by British tales Alice in Wonderland, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Peter Pan. The fair and food village is also back with wooden chalets amid twinkling trees. Visit waddesdon.org.uk to find out more & book.

Santa’s Grotto at Frosts Garden Centre Woburn Sands, MK17 8UE, will open every day up to Christmas Eve with Snowball Sammy & friends offering fun and games before you head off to the reindeer stables to mix up some magical reindeer food with Reindeer Ronnie.Visit frostsgardencentres.co.uk/experiences/santas-grotto-experience

Buckinghamshire Railway Centre in Quainton, HP22 4BY, will welcome you for The Panto Express with Father Christmas. Vintage steam trains will help you create wonderful memories and a professional touring company will perform Beauty & The Beast. Visit bucksrailcentre.org

Plus he’s on board for Santa Steam Specials through December at Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway; chinnorrailway.co.uk

The 12 days of Christmas exhibition returns to Hughenden Manor in High Wycombe, HP14 4LA. Find scenes from the famous carol brought to life with giant gold rings and swans a-swimming on a sea of baubles. Musical Saturdays will bring choirs, silver bands and jazz singers and there are separate festive creative workshops for adults. Children can follow a festive trail to find the 12 presents of Hughenden in the garden and storytelling in the bookshop. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk

Spot giant willow-woven bird sculptures on the seasonal wildlife trail around Stowe in A Winter’s Tail until 1st January. Match tails to their owners, find clues, solve puzzles and keep an eye out for the elusive fox tail. Local choirs will perform at weekends beneath the decorated tree. And join the annual Boxing Day pilgrimage at Stowe Gardens – dogs welcome!

Whatever you do, wishing you lots of peace and goodwill!

Sustainable wreath workshops in Hyde End

Liz Nicholls

Sustainable local flower grower Natasha Humphries invites you to join her first wreath-making workshops in Hyde End

Natasha fell in love with gardening during lockdown, like many of us, but she decided to nurture this passion even further by learning how to grow sustainable British flowers.

Today she is proud owner of a new flower and foliage farm in the Chiltern Hills, a dedicated local farmer with a passion for cultivating scented roses, delicate flowers such as cosmos and beautiful dahlias, among others.

Now Natasha has decided to offer wreath workshops in her family home, using beautiful locally foraged foliage and berries.

“We use metal frames covered in moss, again sourced sustainably,” says Natasha. “We are serving mince pies, mulled wine and an atmosphere of Christmas cheer and music, of course. The workshops are small in size but cosy and friendly.

“My commitment to sustainability shines through we use a thoughtful mixture of compostable and biodegradable materials in our farming practices. I take pride in providing locally grown, vibrant blooms that haven’t been flown in, making them a perfect choice for eco-conscious events. The flowers not only add a touch of natural beauty but also a touch of environmental responsibility.

“I love everything about Christmas”

She adds: “This is my first year running a workshop but I’m Christmas crazy! I love everything about Christmas; I start decorating on 1st November. I love the colour, the lights, the time spent with family and every room has a different theme. I have three daughters and we love to make garlands and treats to gift our friends and family. It’s the best time of the year.

“I am nervous, though, as this is my first year growing flowers and my first workshop. I have been practising making many beautiful wreaths for friends and family so I will be ready.”

Natasha will hold wreath workshops 6.30-8.30pm on Wednesday 6th December, 12-2pm on Saturday 7th and / or 6.30-8.30pm on Sunday 8th December at Chiltern Flower Farm in Hyde End, with mulled wine and mince pies.

All tools and materials will be provided for customers to create a beautiful wreath to take home after a fun and relaxed workshop.

For more details please Whatsapp Natasha on 07525 773195 or else you can email [email protected]

Some hidden gems in West Wycombe

Liz Nicholls

West Wycombe jewellery designer-maker, Justine Holliday, founder of Artisan Jewellery, shares her love for local life

Q. Hi Justine. Where are you based? “We’ve lived in Sands, just outside West Wycombe, for 40 years. My husband & I have two teenagers and two adorable spaniels who are my constant companions. I walk them before work every morning on West Wycombe hill and I’ve never been bored by my surroundings. I’ve had my jewellery workshop in West Wycombe village for over 14 years.”

Q. Did you enjoy school? “I went to school at Lady Verney where I discovered my love for all things art. I had a wonderfully supportive art teacher. I then went on to study art foundation and silver smithing, both at Bucks University which led me to start Artisan Jewellery.”

Q. What do you love about where you live? “The Chilterns has endless walks, stunning scenery, and beautiful tucked-away villages to explore. At the moment, my favourite walk is heading over to The Yew Tree in Frieth which does great beer and amazing food. Also, The Apple Orchard in West Wycombe is so worth a visit for a delicious lunch and the lovely garden.”

Q. What’s one thing you’d change? “I don’t often venture into High Wycombe town centre; I find it a little sad that we’re losing so many shops and have lost a lot of the beautiful architecture that made it a lovely market town.”

“It’s always so lovely to see all the faces – new and old”

Justine Holliday

Q. What are your favourite local businesses? “I’ve honestly got to say one of my favourite places is West Wycombe! I’ve been coming to the village since I was tiny: my family have been based here for generations. So many people just drive through but if you stop and wander around, there are so many things to discover: cafés, lovely country pubs, the village store and architecture that has been trapped in time by the National Trust’s careful conservation.”   

Q. What highlights are you looking forward to? “I’m really looking forward to the festive fayre in the village because it’s always so lovely to see all the faces – new and old! It runs every year in West Wycombe on the first Wednesday in December with food and craft stalls too.”

Q. Where did your love of jewellery begin? “It all started with my lov e for metal while I was studying for my art foundation. This led me to a silversmithing degree. I realised how versatile and beautiful silver is to work with as a material. Eventually, this led to me working with gold and platinum which is where I am today. I’m lucky to work with lovely customers. I enjoy meeting people and finding out about their lives. Everyone has their own story and I like to think each piece I make for them becomes a part of that story. Specialising in redesigning and upcycling heirloom jewellery, sustainability is at the heart of what we do.”

Q. Have you had any remarkable projects? “Too many to mention! I work on so many commissions and have worked with many a famous face but because of the work I do, a lot of these are a personal journey for myself and my customer. Often jewellery is sentimental with deep emotional ties and I feel privileged
to be able to share that with people..”

Visit artisan- jewellery.com 

Could you be a puppy parent?

Liz Nicholls

Local charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People urgently needs volunteers to step up as puppy parents to make a difference to people’s lives… Could you step up for this rewarding role?

Deafness is on the rise in the UK. By 2035, it is estimated that one in five British people (more than 15 million) will experience hearing loss.

Bucks-based UK charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People trains clever dogs to alert deaf people to important and life-saving sounds including alarms, oven timers and even baby monitors. Its dogs also provide constant emotional support and companionship – helping deaf people to leave loneliness behind.

An increase in demand means Hearing Dogs for Deaf People urgently needs more local volunteer puppy trainers. The charity receives no government funding but is very fortunate to have a network of committed volunteers.

There are two types of volunteer roles the charity urgently needs to fill: permanent puppy trainers, who will look after a puppy for the duration of its training (usually between 18 months and two years), and short-term trainers to cover times when others are on holiday.

Linda Foster, who lives near High Wycombe, became a volunteer puppy trainer last year after retiring. “I started off by doing short-term cover when the other trainers were on holiday. I also went to puppy training sessions at The Grange,” says Linda. “Then in April, I started looking after Lola, a gorgeous 13-month-old black Labrador puppy, on a long-term basis. The experience has been very rewarding, and I’ve met some lovely people (and dogs).”

Without volunteers like Linda, the charity would not be able to help anywhere near as many people with hearing loss reconnect with life. Sixteen-year-old Zach Allen, from Chalfront St Peter, was diagnosed as deaf when he was three.

His mum Kirsty said: “Although we got support for Zach to attend a mainstream school, he still had challenges. I saw him lose confidence as he got older. Then, when Zach was eight, everything changed because Echo the hearing dog came into our lives.

“We took Echo into school so Zach’s year could meet him. As a teacher was about to tell the school about him, Zach stood up and introduced Echo to everyone. He explained how Echo alerts him by nudging with his nose. We all stood there open-mouthed at this confident child who had appeared from nowhere.”

Please visit hearingdogs.org.uk/volunteer or call 01844 348129.

Sussex Showcase book by Peter Beckingham

Liz Nicholls

Peter’s beautiful new book, a follow-up to South Downs Showcase is out now, with proceeds to The Motor Neurone Association’s West Sussex branch

Sussex Showcase: 2000 Years of Great Art from Bignor to Brighton by Peter, who lives in Lodsworth, was launched at the recent Petworth Literary Festival.

Covering a bigger canvas, the book features more than 2000 years of art in Sussex, ranging from the beautifully preserved mosaics of Bignor and Fishbourne and world-class medieval frescoes in tiny South Downs churches, to the end of the 20th century and the colourful paintings of Charleston-based artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

Sussex Showcase takes the reader on a visual feast of a journey to see how Sussex has been depicted through many centuries, including by such English Masters as Constable and Turner, as well as famous 20th century painters such as Paul Nash and Eric Ravilious. It also shows how destinations like Brighton, Chichester and Rye have become a beacon for artists, as well as more rural locations like Ditchling. Covering Sussex’s most famous artists, and iconic landmarks from the Downs to Beachy Head and Brighton Pier, the book investigates how the County has made such an impact on art in Britain.

It includes a foreword by The Duke of Richmond from Goodwood House, who comments “how incredibly inspiring the Sussex landscape has been, and remains, for artists”, Sussex Showcase includes over 50 high quality illustrations, some of which are rarely seen and have been generously loaned from privately-owned collections. Describing the publication, author Peter Beckingham said that “its purpose is unashamedly simple and celebratory – a book which can be enjoyed by all tourists and residents of Sussex with an interest in the county’s rich artistic history.”

Peter Beckingham is a former diplomat whose positions included Deputy High Commissioner to India, Ambassador to the Philippines and Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands. He now gives talks on Cunard’s QE2 and Queen Mary and is donating the profits from this book to The Motor Neurone Association’s West Sussex branch. Jonathan Newdick, a book designer with an international reputation, has once again designed this new publication, produced in association with Lodsworth’s Heritage Society.

The book is priced at £16.99 (postage and packing £3.50) as well as selected bookshops in Chichester, Midhurst, Brighton, Arundel, Steyning, Rye and Eastbourne. Email [email protected] or call 01798 342082 for more details on how to order.

Ally Pally fireworks festival banger’s back

Liz Nicholls

On Friday 3rd & Saturday 4th November Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival is back with a bang, starring live music, Dj sets and entertainment, climaxing in an epic fireworks display above the iconic hill view.

Sad that festival season is drawing to a close? Us too! But good news: the Glastonbury of fireworks is back!

Yass: on Friday 3rd & Saturday 4th November book in to experience foot-stomping live music, a taste of Bavaria at the UK’s largest German Bier Festival with sets from tribute acts Joel Coombes: Elton John and Rogue Minogue: Kylie, plus legendary DJ sets in the StrEATlife Village courtesy of none other than Fat Tony and UK garage pioneer DJ Spoony. Enjoy mind-blowing lightning magic from Lords of Lightning, a whizz around the ice rink to a disco soundtrack and, last but not least, lighting up the London skyline with our legendary fireworks display!

Firmly established as one of the biggest and best fireworks events in the country, this year’s highlight will include a stunning programme of live music, DJ sets and entertainment spread across the park and palace’s 196 acres.

The park will also play host to a huge bonfire, funfair and entertainment for all the family. Meanwhile, over in the StrEATlife Festival Village, you’ll find more than 35 of London’s top street food vendors, craft beer bars and cocktails. Live performers and resident DJs will provide the vibes.

Visitors can also step inside the palace, with the ice rink featuring a variety of skating sessions and ice disco. The Great Hall will be transformed into the UK’s largest German Bier Festival, with music coming from the likes of Joel Coombes, Elton John tribute act (Friday) and Rogue Minogue (Saturday).

With Alexandra Palace celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2023, this year’s event continues the tradition of spectacular displays held in the palace grounds, dating back to the late 19th century. This has included astonishing recreations of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in The Last Days of Pompeii and Destruction of the Spanish Armada on the boating lake.

Boom! Ally Pally has been letting off zingers, sending up sky rockets and spinning Catherine wheels into London’s heavens for 150 years! The Friday offers wall-to-wall club classics and on the Saturday relive your favourite movie moments with some of the best film soundtracks of all time.

Diwali recipes & takeaway competition

Liz Nicholls

November is Diwali month so what better time to shine a light on these recipes from Atul Kochhar…? You can also win a takeaway from one of his Bucks restaurants

Diwali is one of India’s most important festivals – a time to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.

Mattan (meat) pepper fry

This curry – a common recipe among the Christians of Kerala, where it is most likely made with mutton or goat – has very little gravy.

Ingredients:
• 600g boneless lamb rump or neck fillet
• 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger
• Four garlic cloves
• Two onions
• Two teaspoons of black peppercorns, to taste
• Fresh coriander leaves
• 200ml water
• Two teaspoons of white wine vinegar
• One heaped tablespoon of coconut oil
• 5 fresh or dried curry leaves
• Two teaspoons of onion paste
• ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
• Sea salt

Method:
1. Assemble all the ingredients and equipment before you begin. You need a spice grinder or pestle and mortar, a large heavy-based saucepan with a lid, a sieve and a large sauté or frying pan.
2. Cut the lamb into bite-sized pieces, trimming and discarding any fat, then set aside. Peel and finely chop the ginger. Peel and thinly slice the garlic cloves. Peel, halve and thinly slice the onions. Put the peppercorns in a spice grinder, or use a pestle and mortar to finely grind or crush. Rinse and chop enough coriander leaves to make about 1 tablespoon.
3. Put the lamb, water, vinegar, ½ teaspoon of the freshly ground pepper and ½ teaspoon of the salt in the saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave the meat to simmer a to a slow boil for 8 minutes. Strain the meat, reserving the cooking liquid.
4. Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil over a medium-high heat in the sauté pan. Add onions, curry leaves, ginger, garlic, a pinch of salt, and stir until the onions are lightly coloured. Add the onion paste and turmeric and stir in for 30 seconds.
5. Add the meat and stir in half the reserved cooking liquid, which will be absorbed and evaporate quite quickly. Add the remaining liquid a little at a time, stirring, until it mostly evaporates. With the last addition, the gravy should almost be like a thin paste coating the lamb and the lamb should be tender.
6. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the freshly ground pepper, adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary, and continue stirring until all the liquid evaporates. Sprinkle with about ½ teaspoon of the ground pepper and the chopped coriander leaves just before serving.

Panch Phoron Gobi Aloo
(Bengali cauliflower & potatoes)

Here’s a variation of the curry house favourite, gobi aloo. This is from the coastal region of Bengal; you might have never have had this classic combo with pickling spices and final finish of fresh ginger.

Ingredients:
• 12 well-scrubbed small new potatoes (see Atul’s tip, below)
• Two thin short green chillies
• Two garlic cloves
• Two tablespoons mustard oil
• 1¼ teaspoons panch phoron 
• 2 teaspoons ground coriander
• ½ teaspoon red chilli powder, or to taste
• ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
• 425ml water
• ½ head of cauliflower, about 400g
• One lemon
• 2cm piece of fresh ginger
• Fresh coriander leaves
• Sea salt

Method:
Assemble all the ingredients and equipment. You need a large sauté or frying pan with a lid.

1. Quarter the potatoes lengthways. Remove the stalks from the chillies, if necessary, then halve lengthways. Peel and thinly slice the garlic.
2. Heat the mustard oil over a medium-high heat in the pan. Add the garlic and stir around to flavour, it doesn’t need to colour. Add the chillies and panch phoron. Stir until the seeds crackle.
3. Add the potatoes, coriander, chilli powder and turmeric. Season with salt and stir for 30 seconds to cook the spices so the potatoes get coated. Watch closely so the spices do not burn.
4. Stir in the water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to medium, cover the pan and leave the potatoes to bubble for 12 minutes, or until they are three-quarters cooked.
5. Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets, discarding outer leaves & core. Squeeze one tablespoon lemon juice. Peel and finely chop the ginger. Rinse and chop enough coriander to make about 1½ tablespoons. Set all these aside separately.
6. When the potatoes are almost cooked, stir in cauliflower and cook over a high heat for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until both are tender, but the cauliflower is still holding its shape.
7. Stir in the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the ginger and 1 tablespoon of the chopped coriander, and add salt, if necessary. Sprinkle with the remaining ginger & coriander just before serving.

Atul’s time-saving tip

I buy well-scrubbed small new potatoes when cooking this dish, so all I have to do is quarter them. If your potatoes are larger, however, cut the potatoes into 1cm dice so they cook quickly.

Hyderabadi Sour Fish Khatti Machhi (Serves four)

This is a very simple recipe, and one of the quickest to cook in the book. I’ve deliberately left the skin on the sea bass fillets. I know a lot of cooks would be tempted to remove the skin, but I enjoy eating fish with the skin, and it saves you time when preparing the ingredients. In Hindi, khatti means ‘sour’, and the sharpness of this recipe comes from the tomatoes and a little lemon juice.

Ingredients:
• 4 large sea bass fillets, skin on
• 1 lemon
• 2 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste
• ½ teaspoon red chilli powder, or to taste 
• 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
• vegetable oil
• ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds 
• 350ml passata
• 10 fresh or dried curry leaves
• sea salt
• fresh coriander sprigs, to garnish

Method:
Assemble all the ingredients and equipment before you begin. You need a non-reactive bowl, a saucepan and a large non-stick sauté or frying pan.

1. Cut the fillets in half, then place them in the bowl. Squeeze in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and add the ginger-garlic paste, chilli powder and turmeric. Season with salt and use a spoon to gently stir together so all the pieces are well coated with the paste-like marinade. Set aside to marinate while you prepare the gravy.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over a medium-high heat in the saucepan. Add the fenugreek seeds and fry until they become darker in colour. Add the passata and curry leaves. Season with salt, reduce the heat to medium and leave the gravy to simmer while you fry the fish.
3. Heat enough vegetable oil to thinly cover the bottom of the frying pan over a high heat. Add the fillets coated in the marinade, skin side down, and fry for 2 minutes, or until the skin is browned.
4. Turn the fillets over and reduce the heat to medium. Pour the gravy into the pan around the fillets and leave to simmer until the flesh is opaque and cooked through. Take care not to over-cook them. Adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary. Garnish with coriander sprigs and serve.

Atul’s time-saving tip

If I hadn’t included passata in this recipe, it would have been necessary to blanch, peel and de-seed the tomatoes before puréeing and sieving them. This is a much quicker way to achieve the sour tomato gravy.

Atul’s restaurant & takeaway competitions

Each of Atul Kochhar’s award-winning Bucks restaurants’ styles are reflected through the takeaway options, cooked in the restaurant kitchens to the same exacting standards as the dishes eaten in the restaurant experience in the comfort of their own homes. Takeaways are ordered for online via each website for collection only – but they will also be available via Deliveroo too.

Vaasu, Marlow

Known for its stunning pan-Indian food, Vaasu’s takeaway collection is available to collect from the restaurant, comprising a selection of highlights from the a la carte menu. Choose from the likes of Kashmiri chicken tikka marinated with fennel and saffron, finished in the clay oven for results impossible to achieve at home; Goan fish or prawn curry; braised lamb Parsi curry with sweet apricots, brown onion and coriander korma; and much more.  

A selection of sweet treats are also offered, including crispy apple jalebi scented with cardamom and saffron, Atul’s special cheesy chocolate fondue, chocolate brownie with fresh berry salsa and vanilla cream, gulab jamun and rice pudding crowned with lemon jam and raspberry dust. 

Hawkyns, Amersham

A destination Indian restaurant in the picturesque town of Old Amersham, Hawkyns offers sensational cuisine to takeaway, available for collection. Here the takeaway menu comprises a broad selection of highlights plus a concise drinks selection and set menus especially devised by chef Atul Kochhar. Set menu bundles include a meat bundle for two, a veg bundle for two and a vegan bundle for two, all featuring a generous selection of starters, mains, sides, breads and desserts. Expect the likes of butter chicken and railway lamb curry; paneer tikka masala and Bombay aloo; or vegetable jalfrezi and carrot and beans foogath.  

Riwaz, Beaconsfield

Celebrating the culinary history and traditions of India, Riwaz’s takeaway menu is available to collect from the restaurant. The menu features a broad selection of menu highlights, including tandoor-grilled king prawns in Ajwain, chilli, garlic and mustard oil; saag gosht with Welsh slow-cooked lamb; Dum biryani with chicken, vegetables or lamb, and much more. Various set menu bundles are also available, including a meat bundle for two, a veg bundle for two and a vegan bundle for two, all featuring a generous selection of starters, mains, sides, breads and desserts.  

We’ve teamed up with Atul’s team to offer five lucky winners a takeaway. NB you must be local to Bucks for collection. Click here to enter

For more info about Atul Kochhar & his award-winning restaurants please visit Atul Kochhar.