Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em!

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Hilarious mishaps and DIY disasters are bringing the house down, quite literally, as Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em returns to Richmond Theatre starring Joe Pasquale!

Based on the 1970s classic TV comedy by Ray Allen and directed by the award-winning Guy Unsworth, Some Mothers Do Ave Em is the ultimate feel-good night out, washed down with lashings of nostalgia and Mother’s prune wine.

After receiving 21 five star reviews in 2018, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is back on tour starring Joe Pasquale (New Faces, Im a Celebrity, Spamalot, The Producers) as the lovable accident-prone Frank Spencer.

Susie Blake (Coronation Street, The Victoria Wood Show, Blithe Spirit) stars as his disapproving Mother-in-Law and Sarah Earnshaw as his long-suffering wife Betty.

Betty has exciting news for Frank, but he’s preoccupied by possible newfound fame as a magician. With guests arriving for dinner and crossed wires all round, priceless misunderstandings are on the menu. Quite Frank-ly, it’s a hit!

Some Mothers Do Ave Em is at Richmond Theatre from Tue 31 May Sat 4 June.

Tickets available from

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Journey into the Magical Forest

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LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort is opening its newest attraction this Saturday, 30th April – step inside and explore

Take an enchanting new walk-through The LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort’s newest attraction as The Magical Forest opens this weekend.

The immersive experience which marks a new realm in the story of its multi-million pound land, LEGO® MYTHICA: World of Mythical Creatures, is set to capture children’s hearts and imaginations when it opens this weekend.

Model Maker Will Saunders (28) puts the finishing touches to some of the mythical LEGO creatures that populate The Magical Forest, the new immersive walkthrough experience launching at the LEGOLAND ® Windsor Resort this Saturday. Will laid the final bricks to a snappy plant model and the vibrant baby Lava Dragon. All the LEGO ® Models were built using over 80,000 LEGO bricks

The finishing touches have been applied and the swirling vortex of dazzling lights offers a glimpse into how guests will start their adventure in this parallel universe, where LEGO creatures come to life using awesome Augmented Reality (AR) with surprises in store around every corner.

Fan-favourite, Bits & Bobs and the friendly baby Alicorn, will surprise guests as at the enchanted waterfall before they head deep in the heart of The Magical Forest. Guests can also expect to unearth secret LEGO habitats hidden beneath the undergrowth and foliage, but just beware for the giant Venus Fly Trap which can be a little snappy – especially when they first meet intrepid young explorers.

The adventure hots up as first look imagery reveals how the habitat shifts from an enchanted forest to a landscape of lava where guests will come eye to eye with a group of Crystal Claw Crabs and a super-sized LEGO dragon egg, before braving the grand finale by entering the magnificent Lava Dragon’s cave, who is stirring inside.

Activated exclusively via the LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort app, families will set off on an intrepid adventure where an AR overlay takes users on a journey narrated by Bobs as he’s magically brought to life and transforms from LEGO to his real-life form in The Realm. Bobs guides guests along The Magical Forest pathway as you meet other creatures from the realm, including; Crystal Claw Crabs, Baby Lava Dragons, Venus Fly Trap and the incredible Lava Dragon herself.

Families will get to help Bobs find his missing wing, breathe fire like a Baby Lava Dragon, and play with the Crystal Claw Crabs; before witnessing and getting to capture a photo of the amazing mother Lava Dragon in full flight. With each creature, you discover you’ll also add a special virtual card to your digital collection with facts and stats about them.

To celebrate the launch of The Magical Forest there are also two exclusive AR Pop Badges featuring the Crystal Claw Crabs and baby Lava Dragons to collect.

LEGO MYTHICA: World of Mythical Creatures also features the UK’s first ever flying theatre ride, Flight of The Sky Lion, which takes guests on a mind-blowing 4D film adventure on board a flying gondola where they soar, swoop and dive with guardian Maximus on an amazing adventure through the epic world.

The land which is full of epic adventures waiting to be discovered also includes the Fire and Ice Freefall drop tower ride and the exhilarating water ride, Hydra’s Challenge.

To book visit

Festival fun for all

Liz Nicholls

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Festivals are back on! Yes, after two fretful years of disrupted fun & frolics, there’s a summer sizzler of festivals ready to rock your world, whatever you’re into… writes Liz Nicholls

Close your eyes and imagine you’re in your happy place… Maybe you and your tots are wafting amid rainbow bubbles, singing along to Justin Fletcher, deluxe doughnut in hand? Are you waiting for the bass to drop beneath the strobe lights as the stage is set for Pete Tong or Orbital? Supping a craft ale getting crafty on your village green? Getting grimy at Reading..? We all have different ideas of a good time.

Whatever your jam, there’s a festival for you.

The excitement among musicians, as well as everyone involved in the festival scene, is palpable

Ronan Keating, who stars at this year’s Cornbury, tells us: “It’s just great to be back on stage with my band again. After the last couple of years I think everyone feels a huge sigh of relief that we can all get back together again to do something we truly love. I was due to perform at Cornbury in 2020 but understandably everything had to be moved. It’s a great line-up with Bryan Adams, James Blunt and then me on the Sunday. I was lucky to be able to release two albums during the pandemic, Twenty Twenty and Songs From Home.

“It will be great to be back on stage and play some of the new tracks along with all the hits from my solo years as well as a few of the great Boyzone hits that everyone loves. I’m still loving being live on Magic Radio every week day morning, along with Harriet Scott, and you’ll still be able to see me each week on the sofa co-hosting The  One Show. I feel very lucky to be in people’s homes across the UK each day on TV and radio but finally  being back on stage is the thing that’s making this year so special.”

Kaleidoscope – credit Lloyd Winters

So, here’s a round-up of the big & small gems which are all set to dazzle between now & the end of summer…

The Investec International Music Festival celebrates composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 150th birthday and strong local connections with world-class concerts, walks and talks across the Surrey Hills, 5th-14th May. Featuring Sitkovetsky Trio at Charterhouse in Godalming, Modigliani Quartet & cellist Gary Hoffman with Wu Qian at Cobham’s Menuhin Hall, and clarinettist Michael Collins with an all-star chamber ensemble at RHS Garden Wisley. Please visit

Cookham Festival in Bucks is a celebration of the arts by the village for the village, 6th to 22nd May. You can enjoy music, spoken word, workshops, kids’ fun, sculpture & more; visit

Are You Listening? Alfie Templeman, Pip Blom, Pixey & dozens more will rock Reading in aid of Mencap on 7th May; And there are classical delights aplenty at Newbury Spring Festival, 7th-21st May;

Join beloved local legend Tom Kerridge & his foodie friends for Pub In The Park Marlow, 12th-15th May, for Rag’n’Bone Man, Sister Sledge, Sophie Ellis-Bextor & lots more talent; And if you love the 1980s, Let’s Rock the Moor in Cookham on 21st May offers Wet Wet Wet, Squeeze, The Selecter, Jason Donovan, Sonique & more;

Family & planet-friendly WOOD returns to Ipsden near Wallingford, 20th-22nd May;

Amesbury Arts Festival has two performances open to the public: Scouting for Girls, Indie-pop, 25th May, 7.30pm, and live stand-up comedy from Iain Stirling on 26th May, 7.30pm. Both be held in the school’s magnificent grounds in Hindhead. But tickets via EventBrite, visit

Celebrate Britain’s rich musical heritage

The 15th English Music Festival at Dorchester Abbey, 27th-29th May, stars Coleridge-Taylor’s Violin Concerto, Holst’s The Cloud Messenger, Vaughan Williams’s Willow Wood sung by Roderick Williams; a song showcase by Havergal Brian; and A Garland for the Queen, commissioned specially for the Jubilee.

“Probably the finest free music and beer festival in the world…” Rokefest will rock The Home Sweet Home in the glorious Oxfordshire countryside, 27th-29th May, starring Bottle Kids, The Skandal, the MFU & more, all for great causes;

Among the many festivals DJ Yoda, AKA Duncan Beiny, will perform at this year is the fabulous Great Estate in Cornwall, 2nd-5th June which also stars Manic Street Preachers, Electric Six, The Sugarhill Gang and more; The turntablist is looking forward to this summer…. “Oh god I’m champing at the bit!” he says. “If anything I feel a bit nervous about it.  I’m even seriously getting myself in physical shape for it with diet and exercise. The pandemic ruled travel out for ages which was grim for me; I’m looking forward to getting to New York, Austria, Portugal, Ireland. Kaleidoscope festival at Ally Pally is near where I grew up so I’ll see a lot of old friends, that will be really special for me. Musically there’s Mostly Jazz in Birmingham [8th-10th July;]. Standon Calling [Hertfordshire, 21st-24th July;] is always good, Y Not? is always good… [Derbyshire, 29th-31st July;]. It’s going to be week-in, week-out party times. As a DJ I’m constantly checking out new artists. My favourite rappers at the moment are Roc Marciano and Your Old Droog and I really rate the singer Grace Lightman. I love seeing other acts at festivals so this quest lives in my head very much, I can’t wait!”

Jubilee joy awaits at Shynefest at Merrist Wood College in Worplesdon, on 3rd & 4th June. The Lightning Seeds top the live music bill & you’ll find bucketloads of family-friendly fun such as escape room games & animal encounters, food, plus there are camping & glamping options;

Enjoy a folk, doo-wop & jive weekend at the Fleur De Lys in East Hagbourne near Didcot, 3rd-5th June;

And Wychwood Festival will rock Cheltenham racecourse, 3rd-5th June, with Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Levellers, Boney M, comedy, a kids’ lit fest, headphone disco & idyllic camping beneath the Prestbury Hills;

Hampton Court Palace Festival offers legends including Elbow, George Benson, Jack Savoretti, Ministry of Sound classical mash-ups, The Human League, Crowded House, Michael Ball & Alfie Boe, 8th-16th June. With Fortnum & Mason picnics & bouji hospitality packages, this is a classy affair… for all you need to know.

Richard Dawkins (on defying gravity), Delia Smith, Jarvis Cocker, David Miliband, William Dalrymple & David Olusoga are some of the mind-expanding stars at KITE, a new festival of ideas & music in Kirtlington, near Oxford, 10th-12th June, with Grace Jones, no less, topping the music bill!

All hail the return of The Isle of Wight Festival!

The iconic shindig just over the Solent stars Lewis Capaldi, Madness, Nile & Chic, Kasabian, Pete Tong, Muse & more, 16th-19th June.

Blenheim Palace is the superb backdrop for the Nocturne Live performances from the likes of David Gray, Lionel Richie, Simply Red, Simple Minds & UB40 starring Ali Astro, 16th-19th June;

Beacon Festival returns to raise funds and spirits in Watlington on 17th & 18th June, with a Queen tribute, Noble Jack, Kioko, Fontana, SkaSouls UK, Chic to Chic and lots more across four stages. Over the last decade the eco-friendly festival with a free shuttle bus & camping has raised more than £25,500 for local charities;

We can’t not mention Glastonbury in a festivals special… If you’re lucky enough to have bagged a golden ticket, at the end of June, you can enjoy Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish, Diana Ross and legions more… If not, watch from the sofa!

Fancy a little opera? After wowing thousands since 2018, Scherzo Ensemble return to Longhope Opera in Newton Valence, near Alton, 2nd & Sunday, 3rd July, to perform L’elisir d’Amore by Donizetti.

A$AP Rocky & Tyler, the Creator star at Wireless Crystal Palace, 1st to 3rd July and Cardi B & Nicki Minaj at Finsbury Park (8th-10th July); And BST Hyde Park is the glorious setting, 24th June to 10th July, for Pearl Jam, Robert Plant, Pixies, Stereophonics, Rolling Stones & more,

Haslemere Fringe Festival, 1st-3rd July, has music, comedy, dance and more, 1st to 3rd July. Sleeper, Sophie Ellis-Bextor & The Feeling will star, along with so many more stars, at this community highlight with heart;

A trip to Devon is always a mood-booster

Powderham Castle near Exeter is the suitably stunning setting, on Sunday, 3rd July, for A Perfect Day. The line-up will include our former cover star & crush David Gray performing his White Ladder 20th anniversary Show, James Morrison, Tom Odell, Gabrielle, The Shires & Wildwood Kin;

Morcheeba, Sugar Hill Gang, Badly Drawn Boy, DJ Format & many more will dazzle at Readipop in Caversham, 8th-10th July. Established in 1998, party while helping vulnerable young people and older folk, as well as aspiring artists;

Hugh Phillimore has confirmed that it’s officially the final Cornbury (sniff) at The Great Tew Park, 8th-10th July. And it’s a fittingly great line-up starring Bryan Adams, James Blunt, the aforementioned Ronan Keating, The Darkness, The Magic Numbers & many more;

And if you’ve got a ticket to sold-out “Godfather of the small festival scene,” Truck in Steventon enjoy Sam Fender, Blossoms, Kelis, Black Honey & more; see for resales.

Pete Tong, Craig David, Katherine Jenkins, Jack Savoretti & Tom Jones are among the legends at the smart riverside Henley Festival 6th-10th July; Get your glad rags on!

Henley Festival

Our very witty cover star James Blunt will star, alongside Cameo, the Specials, Human League & more at the stunning Rochester Castle Concerts in Kent 6th-9th July;

Reef, The Hoosiers, the Leylines & Dodgy will star at Fi.Fest in Maidenhead on 9th July; And arrive thristy for Twyford Beer Festival, which is alweays fun, and raises money for male cancer charity Orchid, 10th & 11th July;

On 16th July head to Newbury to enjoy Weatherby’s Super Sprint Day & Party in the Paddock with the one and only Craig David;

Set within the stunning Henham Park in Suffolk, let your curiosity guide you at Latitude, 21st to 24th July. This East Anglian wonderland offers great music, dance, comedy, poetry, theatre, literature, family fun and wellness such as wild swimming and paddleboarding. This year’s line-up includes Foals, Groove Armada, Fontaines DC & many more;

Pennfest near Beaconsfield is one of our favourites here at Round & About Towers The funfest on 22nd & 23rd July has another banging line-up to rev up the Bucks countryside, including Clean Bandit, Sugar Hill Gang, Rudimental, Grandmaster Flash, Shola Ama, The Hoosiers & more;

Enter our competition to win Pennfest tickets!

Kaleidoscope lands at Alexandra Palace on Saturday, 23rd July, with Orbital, Happy Mondays, Dom Joly, a circus, theatre & more… And Patty Smith will star, alongside Nadine Shah, at Higher Ground, also at Ally Pally on 24th July;

Beloved Berkshire beauty Marvellous will offer mighty more tribute acts & fun, 23rd & 24th July in Hurst;

WOMAD letters – credit Brenna Duncan

WOMAD, the World of Music, Arts and Dance Music festival, returns to delight Charlton Park near Marlborough, 28th-31st July. Kae Tempest, A Certain Ratio, The Dhol Foundation, Greentea Peng & Nitin Sawhney will star;

Curated by Josie & Rob Da Bank, Camp Bestival at Dorset’s Lulworth Castle. This year’s line-up includes Rag ‘n’Bone Man, Rudimental, Earth, WInd & Fire, Example, a DJ set from Faithless, Mr Tumble, spas, workshop, and lots of family fun, 28th-31st July;

Cornbury Park is the wondrous setting for the thrilling Wilderness Festival, 4th-7th August. Wellbeing, theatre, thought-provoking workshops and more will keep you stimulated, and Underworld, Years & Years and Roisin Murphy are some of the gems on the musical line-up;

The brilliantly bonkers Boomtown Fair team are building the Main City for a revitalised living theatre festival on the theme of The Gathering, 10th-14th August in Hampshire’s Matterley Estate,

Enjoy wings, wheels and steam with your bands with Retrofestival in Newbury, 12th-14th August;

Billy Ocean, Cast, Del Amitri, Stereo MCs & The Christians will star at Weyfest, the boutique festival held in Tilford near Farnham since 2007. This year’s family-friendly highlight 19th-21st August will rock The Rural Life Museum, with dancing Daleks, Laserquest, “posh loos” & great food;

Stowaway Festival

Another Bucks beauty, Stowaway near Buckingham will star Orbital, a DJ set from Quantic, Norman Jay, Erol Alkan, The Staves, Roni Size & more, 19th-21st August;

Enter our competition to win Stowaway tickets!

And Rewind South in Henley 19th-21st August will star Holly Johnson, Kim Wilde, The Human League and Pat Sharp;

Reading (& Leeds) is back to rock the August bank holiday. Arctic Monkeys, Dave, Rage Against The Machine, Megan Thee Stallion, Joy Crookes, Run the Jewels, Griff, Pale Waves & Wolf Alice star;

Still rocking near Thame after 58 fun-filled years, Towersey Festival brings you comedy, music & fun, 26th-29th August;

Love cars, love music? Then you’ll love cinch presents CarFest, the family music & motoring festival founded by Chris Evans in 2011, that raises fun levels and funds for children’s charities. Catch Paloma Faith, Rag’n’Bone Man, Kaiser Chiefs, Steps & so many more at Laverstoke Park, 26th-28th August,

Finally, 2nd-4th September, community favourite Bunkfest in Wallingford will serve up its beloved brew of music, dance & beer;

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May recipes: Green queens

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We’re celebrating the green goodness with two brunch recipes to herald Alresford Watercress Festival

Kedgeree with Watercress


• 100ml Whole Milk
• 2 smoked haddock fillets
• ½ tbsp olive oil
• ½ Onion, chopped
• Small piece ginger, grated
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• ½ tsp turmeric
• ½ tsp curry powder
• 100g basmati rice
• 2 eggs
• 80 watercress, chopped finely

Prep: 10 minutes | Cooking:  30 minutes | Serves: Two people

The origins of ‘Brunch’ are unclear. Some food historians think the meal has its roots in England’s hunt breakfasts – lavish multi-course meals that featured such treats as chicken livers, eggs, meats, bacon, fresh fruit, and sweets.

Others believe Sunday brunch derives from Victorian times when staff were given the Sabbath off and they left their lords and masters with enough food to graze on throughout the day while, yet others look to 1930s New York and the abundance of dining spots for the origins of classic brunch dishes from eggs Benedict to bagels and lox.

So, indulge that weekend feeling! Chow down on this fantastic brunch recipe at your leisure and revel in easy, comforting food.


Heat the milk and around 50ml of water in a large pan on a low heat. Add the fish, skin-side down, and poach for around 5 mins. Remove carefully and flake it – set aside and reserve the liquid for later.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion before adding garlic, ginger, turmeric and curry powder. When the onion is soft, add the rice and let it soak up the flavours in the pan.

Make the reserved poaching liquid up to around 150-200ml with water before adding it to the pan. Simmer for around 10 minutes.

Boil the eggs for around 6 minutes – this should give you a gooey yolk (boil for longer if you prefer.)

Once the rice is cooked, stir through the haddock and watercress. Quarter the cooked eggs and place on top to serve.

Mushroom & Watercress French Toast


• 2 Slices thick crusty bread
• 1 egg
• 100g mushrooms, halved
• 1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
• 80g Watercress, chopped
• 50g grated Swiss cheese
• Butter

Prep: 10 minutes | Making: 10 minutes | Serves: One person

This is another fabulous tasty quick brunch recipe, perfect for a lazy Sunday morning or indeed a snack whenever you fancy.


In a bowl, beat the egg and add a little salt & pepper. Dip the bread in, covering both sides.

Heat some butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the eggy bread for a couple of minutes, flip it and sprinkle the grated cheese on the side that is cooked so it melts.

Meanwhile, heat a knob butter in a pan over a medium heat (add garlic if using), cook the mushrooms. Add the watercress as the mushrooms start to brown and cook for no longer than a minute, so that the watercress has just wilted.

Serve the mushrooms and watercress on top of the cooked bread with lots of black pepper.

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Star Q&A: Toyah Willcox

Liz Nicholls

All Areas

Musician Toyah Willcox, who turns 64 this month, shares her excitement for a summer of festivals, including Let’s Rock where she is set to star…

Hello! Given the past two years, do you think 2022 could be the most joyous ever? “2022 will be joyous – the artists have missed the audience and the audience have missed the artists. It’s going to be one big party. Let’s Rock is very special because not only are there back-to-back acts all day who are brilliant and iconic, but also the atmosphere is so friendly and family-orientated. You can look out over an audience and sometimes see three generations of the same family. They are a joyous community with one thing in common – they all love the 1980s! I love performing with the Let’s Rock band (sensationally good musicians). We also get to see the friends we’ve been performing with for decades… for 40 years.”

Q. Are there any other performers you’re looking forward to seeing? “I always end up on the same plane and same hotel as Chesney Hawkes, all over the world… Somehow fate brings us together and we have a scream. Chesney lives in the States, I live in the UK, but we walk into the same room in the oddest places and say ‘What are you doing here?!”’

Q. Which musician, living or dead, would you most like to see perform? “Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Tim Buckley, Robert Plant (with me) and Talk Talk.”

Q. What is your strongest memory of appearing on Top Of The Pops? “Top Of The Pops was an event, every time. It’s a show I used to watch with my family and to be on it was an honour. On my first appearance there was a mini disaster when my costume didn’t arrive and I had to wear a dress I bought as a back-up. Ironically, I think it made me more approachable to the Top Of The Pops audience – less confrontational, image-wise.”

Q. Have you kept any souvenirs from the 1980s? “I have warehouses full of every on-stage costume/every acting costume I’ve ever worn, as well as every photoshoot. They are my life, a life I am immensely proud of.”

Q. What other plans do you have for 2022? “I have three sold-out tours this year, including Toyah & Lene Lovich’s Electric Ladies UK tour in June, followed by the Toyah Anthem Tour in autumn to celebrate of the re-release of my 1981 platinum album Anthem. I will also be making two albums – a reimagining of my 2019 album In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, whilst the second album will be recorded in September and is the follow-up to my 2021 no.1. album, Posh Pop. In the last two years I’ve had four Top 10 albums – Posh Pop out-sold Queen, Metallica and Justin Timberlake in its first week.”

Tickets & more at

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Lifelong learning and mental fitness

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You don’t have to run a four-minute mile…

…to follow in the footsteps of Roger Bannister.

On a windy day in May 1954, a 25-year-old medical student broke track and field’s most famous barrier – the four-minute mile. Roger Bannister won fame at Oxford’s Iffley Road track, with a time of 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.

Bannister, who’d been born into a working-class family, showed promise in education as well as running. After retiring from athletics, he enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a neurologist. He made the Queen’s Honours list twice for his contributions to sport. Then, in his 70s, he returned to his studies – by taking short courses at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education.

Bannister knew that mental fitness carries many of the same benefits as physical fitness, including improved health, mental resilience and longevity. As a research neurologist, he would have understood brain plasticity – how a stimulated brain forms new synaptic connections at any age. Many studies (including one published in The Lancet in July 2017) cites educational attainment and lifelong learning as among the most important factors in preventing one-third of future dementia cases.

Among the topics Bannister explored as an adult learner were the philosophies of Hegel and Wittgenstein, the politics of Asia and America, the making of modern Europe, the history of the Cold War, and the archaeology of Roman Britain.

He went on to complete a longer course too – an Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing. Bannister joked with his poetry tutor that writing a villanelle was harder to achieve than breaking the four-minute mile.

For most of us, breaking a record in track and field is off the table – but lifelong learning is always well within reach. You can follow Sir Roger Bannister’s example at Oxford, choosing from more than 1000 short courses and longer programmes, taught both in Oxford and online.

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April recipes: Feed your family

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Say bye-bye to boring dinners with exciting recipes from Chefs In Schools, by Nicole Pisani & Joanna Weinberg

Nerissa’s butternut squash cake


• 125g/4½oz unsalted butter
• 125g/4½oz golden caster sugar
• Two free range eggs
• 200g/7oz cooked butternut squash
• 250g/9oz self-raising flour
• One teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• Edible flowers, to decorate

For the icing

• 100g/3½oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 100g/3½oz soft light brown sugar
• 85g/3oz maple syrup
• 220g/7¾oz cream cheese

Prep: 15 minutes | Cooking:  45 minutes | Serves: 8 people

“This recipe is one we share with every school we work with,” writes Nerissa Buckley, school chef trainer.

“It was developed out of necessity but became a hit. I was at a school one day and we needed a cake ASAP for lunch. We like to get as much fruit or vegetables to our cakes as we can and I was hunting around for some to put in, when I remembered we were baking butternut squash whole in the oven for the next day. It was a lightbulb moment… and what a yummy result.”


Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and line a 20-cm/8-inch cake tin with reusable baking paper. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat again until pale and creamy.

Add the cooked squash, flour and spices and gently fold in to combine. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes until lightly golden on top and a knife or skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Make the icing while the cake is cooling: beat the butter, sugar and maple syrup (an electric beater makes this easier) until light and airy, then add the cream cheese, a quarter at a time.

Continue to beat for about two minutes until smooth and thick.

When the cake is completely cool, smear all over the top and sides. Decorate with edible flowers.


• 400g/14oz hummus
• 24 baby vegetables for “planting” e.g. radishes,  carrots (with leaves if possible), baby cucumber and  tenderstem broccoli, trimmed and peeled, with tops on, or cut into small spears
• Flatbread, to serve

For the ‘black soil’

• 75g/2¾oz stale, good-quality bread
• Olive oil
• 75g/2¾oz black olives, pitted
• 50g/1¾oz pumpkin seeds
• One teaspoon cumin seeds
• Generous pinch of chilli flakes

Prep: 5 hours (drying time) | Making: 10 minutes | Serves: 4-6 to nibble on


“he first time Oli and I made the Edible Garden, a Nopi classic, for Gayhurst School was just an epic moment for me – educational, beautiful, joyful, with the kids all eating vegetables. It was everything in one moment and I remember thinking that we were on to something here.” Nicole Pisani.

For this recipe you’ll need two small loaf tins or other vessels deep enough to “plant” the veg into – tumblers or squat mugs also work.


First make the “black soil”: preheat the oven to 100°C fan/120°C/250°F/gas mark ½. Toss the stale bread in a little olive oil and arrange with the black olives on a baking try and pop into the oven (turned off) to dry out for four or five hours. Place a dry frying pan over a medium heat and toast the seeds and chilli flakes until fragrant. Transfer to a blender with the dried olives and bread and blitz together.

Tip the mixture back onto the baking tray and rub the soil together to feel if it is dry enough. If not, return to the low oven for an hour or until dry.

Divide the hummus between the loaf tins. Scatter over the black soil and plant in the veg. Serve with flatbread.

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Star Q&A: Steve Backshall

Liz Nicholls

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Explorer, naturalist, presenter & dad Steve Backshall MBE, 48, talks to Liz Nicholls ahead of his Ocean show at a venue near you.

Hi Steve. Can you tell us a bit about your Ocean show? “Yes! We’re bringing marine scenes to the stage, creating the undersea environment inside a theatre which is quite a challenge! Marine creatures will be brought to life through the use of props, life-size replicas of the largest animal ever known on our planet, footage on the giant screen, and interactivity. It’s going to be a blast.”

Q. Is the shark your favourite animal? “It’s up there. One of the things I find most fascinating is that even the sharks we have here in our seas we know little about. Even recently, people used to think basking sharks hibernated, lying on the sea bed for winter. But now we know about their fascinating mating and parenting lives. To me they are the most majestic prehistoric, but not primeval, predators on the planet. There are fewer than ten people every year killed by sharks, but we have this impression of them as malicious, man-eating monsters out to get us. And that’s simply not true.”

Q. You’ve been bitten by a caiman, crawled on by a redback and have only respect for animals. But has any experience scared you? “With animals it’s rare but one stands out. We were diving with crocodiles in Botswana and a hippo came out of the murk and approached within metres of us. I’d say you could have tossed a coin as to whether we lived or died in that situation.”

Q. Did growing up on a smallholding in Bagshot inspire your love of wildlife? “Yes. I had such a halcyon childhood surrounded by our old asthmatic donkey, psychotic ‘guard dog’ geese, guinea fowl, peacocks… Every one was a rescue animal that had been given a second chance of life with us. They were our friends, our housemates.”

Q. What was your favourite book growing up? “Call Of The Wild by Jack London. I still even now read it and get the hackles going up at the back of my neck. Once I got a little bit older Alfred Russell Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago took over.”

Q. Do you love your local wildlife in Marlow? “Absolutely! I now find my best wildlife encounters are not in the world’s most exotic places, they’re here. I’m seeing these things with fresh eyes through my kids. They’re very lucky with Helen [Glover] as their mum, a double gold-winning Olympic athlete who is amazing at everything, and from me they get a love of nature. About two months ago we saw otter spraint at the bottom of our garden and set a camera trap with the kids. We watched the swans, rats and foxes and when we got our first otter we practically blew the roof off this house. It was epic! It remains one of my fondest wildlife experiences ever. Even though I’ll probably never even see those otters with my own eyes, our world has become that little bit more exciting because we know they’re there.”


Guildford’s G Live on 7th April
Reading’s Hexagon on 14th April
Basingstoke’s Anvil on 19th April
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre on 29th April
New Theatre Oxford on 4th May

Many more shows available at various locations.

Visit for info & to book.

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How to save on energy costs

Round & About

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With the rising costs of energy bills, Dave Lamont from Plastic Free Home, based in Wokingham, has some top tips to help you save

According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), 40 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption and one fifth of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions stem from powering and heating homes and other buildings.

Significant changes, including urgent legislation and well targeted financial support from the Government, are therefore arguably key if the UK is to achieve its climate change goals by 2050.

For example, around 90 per cent of UK homes rely on gas boilers to provide heating, with a widely suitable and cost-effective alternative not currently obvious. Options ranging from electric boilers to heat source pumps can cost anything from £2,000 – £20,000 and aren’t suitable for installation in many homes, particularly those that are poorly insulated, and the UK lags behind most of Europe on this front.

Successive governments have introduced grant scheme after grant scheme but in truth they’ve barely scratched the surface. Most recently, the now defunct Green Homes Deal helped to insulate fewer than 6,000 homes against a target of 600,000.

Combine this lack of progress with the need to tackle the climate emergency, soaring energy prices and a cost-of-living crisis and looking hard at ways we can reduce our energy use and bills has to be a worthwhile exercise? Here are some suggestions to get you started…

Escaping heat

If your home hasn’t been well insulated or your windows and doors are decades old, you could be wasting lots of energy (and money!) generating heat that is quickly being lost. If you can’t afford to directly address these bigger issues, ensure that your radiators are operating efficiently and consider adding a heat reflective material behind them, insulate water cylinders and pipes, cap and safely seal any open chimneys, invest in thick curtains, use draft excluders, cover cold floors with rugs, close internal doors to keep the heat where your need it, place seating in the warmer areas in rooms and capture heat by leaving your oven open after use.

Dial down

A study by a leading comparison website found that 10 per cent of the UK routinely set their thermostat to at least 25°C, whilst in the UK the average is 20°C. Reducing that by just 1°C to 19°C could save the average household at least £80 a year. We need to use our heating a little more sparingly – remember to dress warmly at home during colder months, keep a throw or blanket handy and maybe even a hot water bottle.

Boiling point

If you have a condensing combi boiler (that provides your heating and heats your water), you could save up to 8 per cent on your gas bill just by turning the flow temperature down, according to the Heating and Hot Water Council. Always consult your manual to ensure you use the correct minimum setting.

Don’t get in a spin

Up to 90 per cent of the energy consumed when using a washing machine comes from heating the water. According to the Energy Saving Trust, washing at 30°C rather than 40°C reduces your energy consumption by around 60 per cent per cycle. A cool wash setting can save you around 25 per cent more energy than using ‘eco mode’. Aim for a full load or remember to use the ‘light load’ setting.

On the line

Around 60 per cent of UK households own a tumble dryer but, worryingly, a single cycle can produce nearly 2KG of CO2 and use 4kWh of energy. Incredibly, if every tumble dryer owning home in the UK instead hung and dried just one extra load of washing in a year, over one million tonnes of CO2 would be saved. Try to live without a tumble dryer – dry clothes outside whenever you can and inside on a clothes line if not.

Stay cool

Fridges and freezers account for up to one tenth of our home energy usage. Generally, the fuller they are, more efficiently they will run. Fridges should be set at between 1°C and 5°C – don’t have yours set colder than you need and don’t leave doors open for longer than needed.

Standby for savings

From TVs to games consoles, laptops to kitchen appliances, don’t leave them on overnight and when not in use. The Energy Saving Trust’s research suggests that up to 16 per cent of our home energy is used to power devices in standby mode.


Speaking of appliances and devices, when the time comes to replace any in your home, always aim to buy those that are at least A-rated and therefore the most energy efficient available.

Lightbulb moment

Similarly, don’t leave any lights on around the house. Also, switch to LED bulbs which can last for decades with any luck and use up to 90 per cent less energy than other alternatives.

Get certified

Depending on how seriously you want to take things, if you haven’t moved for more than five years, consider having your home assessed and getting an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) done. It will show you how energy efficient your home is and may provide helpful suggestions as to improvements you could make. And, consider a smart meter if you don’t already have one so you can track your energy usage and identify further changes you can make.

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Star Q&A: Kelly Jones

Round & About

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Liz Nicholls chats to musician & dad Kelly Jones as the Stereophonics release their new album Oochya and hit the road for their UK tour

Hello Kelly! Great to have you playing live again. How does playing these big venues compare to the little clubs where you started out? “Yeah I mean the working men’s clubs, that was kind of our Hamburg I suppose <chuckle>, you know. It’s where we learned our chops, it’s where we lived it’s where we died. It’s where we learnt what was good what didn’t work. Um. I suppose it was the grounding of how we learned to build a set list, a skeleton of how to take people on a journey with different song choices. It’s the same tools you use playing a stadium it’s just people have been following a band and they have their favourites and we have our favourites. We piece together a show where you create a show people can’t forget really. You want them to walk out feeling better than they did when they walked in there. It’s the same mentality in many ways, it’s just on a much grander scale. We do the same thing we just try to make it all a bit… bigger.”

Q. What’s on your rider? Is it, like Keith Richards, a big snooker table and a shepherd’s pie? “Haha, no I think we’ve had the same rider for 20-odd years. It’s usually a couple of cases of beer, some Guinness. There’s usually red wine. Usually a couple of bottles of spirits. Everyone’s welcome really. We’ve got everything covered for anyone that wants in. I think we’ve been pretty lazy not changing that since the ’90s. It’s still all there. It still all gets done at some point or other. We come from where we come from so on our days off we like having a nice drink.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “Records in the house. I shared a bedroom with my brother Lee until I was about 14. He’d be playing Bob Seeger records and the eagles and ZZ Top and my other brother Kevin would be playing Bob Dylan and Neil Young. My dad would be playing Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book. I picked up a guitar about 10 or 11. I guess my first memory of performing was at the working men’s club at the end of my street when I was about 12. And there was always music around. Watching my dad playing the working men’s clubs I suppose and I would sit with my mother eating nuts. I’d carry his speakers for a fiver at the end of the night. I got to know his band and listen to other members of the band yabbering in the dressing room. My earliest memories of music were between six and 10 listening to them, they used to drink and smoke and have a good time in bingo halls and working men’s clubs.”

Q. You’ve worked with so many legends, but I have to ask you about Bowie..! “He was wonderful! We were lucky enough to tour with him on our fourth album. And he was on his last ever tour as it turned out which was the Reality album. He was an inspiration to watch every night. He was funny and he was artistic and very very casual because he wasn’t playing a character, he wasn’t playing Ziggy Stardust he wasn’t playing the Thin White Duke, he was playing David Bowie. He’s come and sit in the dressing room and chat, he would watch our sound takes. He’d take requests when we watched his sound checks. He was lovely. We learned a lot from him. We had a give a side football match with him. It’s just surreal when you look back at the pictures and stuff. I can’t quite believe it actually happened. That was an incredible experience. We were on a bit of a roll at that point. We’d just got off the U2 tour, we’d just gone on to the Bowie tour, went on to the Lenny Kravitz tour… it was just nuts. All the people we looked up to we were then getting asked to play with them, it was amazing.”

Q. Your lyrics are so observational. So who were your favourite writers growing up? “In our house there weren’t lots of books. I loved ghost stories and Roald Dahl, the Tales of The Unexpected and all that. I always used to like the way he wrote things with a twist in at the end y’know. And then I loved John Sullivan’s writing on TV, doing Only Fools and Horses, making people laugh always with these twists at the end. When I went to college I started reading Bukowski and Dylan Thomas.”

Q. What are your favourite films? “One of my favourite films is The Deer Hunter which sometimes gets overlooked by the godfather. The thing about the deer Hunter it’s like two or three films in one and the landscape of it reminds me a lot of Cwmaman where I grew up. The guys are drinking in the bar at the beginning and the factories and the wedding. The first part of the film reminds me a lot of the guys around my area where they all joined the army and had coming home parties after the Falklands. So I’ve got quite an affinity to The Deer Hunter. My older brothers were always playing movies I probably shouldn’t have been watching as a kid. I love Jack Nicholson and I love Stanley Kubrick all those kind of classics. Mike Nichols was always a good director as well.”

Q. Any dream collaborators? “I grew up loving ACDC and got quite friendly with Brian Johnson but we never played any shows with AC/DC. They would have been a dream as a kid. Most of the people I grew up with – I love Otis Redding – they’re all passed now. Going forward, I like a lot of people’s records by different producers. I’m probably on that page now, the age I’m at,working with people in the studio collaboration-wise.”

Q. Are you glad you started out when you did, instead of the age our teenage children are now? “It’s different. I’ve got four kids spanning from 17 down to 19 months and they’ve all got a very different experience in their life. I’ve got a 15 & a five-year-old in between and when I watch them and how they use the media and listen to music and watch films or dramas or series or games it’s just a very different culture and, um, the attention span is very different. They’re not sitting and listening to a whole album from begginging to end. And I think the way that people get discovered is different as well. I am glad the way we got found and built our fan base was very I guess traditional in many ways and possibly the last era to do it that way – basically driving round in a van playing pubs and bars, building up a traditional fan base that hopefully sticks to you for a long career. Because I don’t know how people have a long career these days if their stats and their algorithms aren’t working in line with what record companies want which I find a little bit sad. It kind of limits  moving forward and development for artists. I’m sure it might work out in other ways but they might get dropped. This is a bit sad because it takes people time to get to where they’re going to. It’s got amazing advantages as well. But that’s some of the disadvantages.”

Q. What practices help you keep you mentally healthy? “Mental health has become such an open conversation finally in everyone’s lives, everybody goes through different periods of struggles with anxieties and lows and highs, it’s natural I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. For me personally exercise is the best one for me running. And some quiet spaces in between all the hectic stuff that you do. Trying to put the silences between all the noise. I’m trying to pass stuff on to the kids and you’ve got to learn about yourself too. You don’t learn about yourself until you stay hitting some walls. And then you discover a lot about yourself. For me it’s about open space – that’s what gets me back to the ground. I guess that comes back to my roots – I’m from a very open place! But I live in London where it’s all on top of me. I do find the open space calms me down for sure.”

Q. Do you get a lot of hassle/ weird fan mail? “I live in a kind of village area really in London. All my kids go to school, we kind of know everyone in the area. I don’t get bandy fans coming up to me in the street. It’s normally just people being pretty friendly. Maybe 15 years ago we had some weird stuff in a different place where I was living and the police had to come and take care of that stuff. Very odd letters and stuff. But generally where I am everyone’s been great, especially when you have family everyone knows the kids. Everybody’s in the same boat really. I’m not living in the middle of a crazy city – it’s not dissimilar to where I was brought up. Just in a different kind of surrounding, you know.”

Q. You’ve spoken so movingly about your family, including your son Colby’s journey. How is he doing? “Colby’s doing great; in a new sixth form in a new environment with a lot more likeminded people. Thriving in the studies that he’s doing and getting loads of distinctions and feels at home. Which is great because coming from an all-girls school not wanting to be a girl was a very hard environment to be in. He did amazing in his exams and worked really hard and now he’s in a place where he wants to be. He’s been great it’s been a proper journey, for the family, for everybody involved in the family. And now Misty’s going through GCSEs so all the pressures on her now. They all go through different episodes. I like to be pretty hands on with the kids. And Jakki my wife is really brilliant with them all. We have our ups and downs we have our struggles and all want to kill each other at times but most of the time we just try to communicate as well as we can really. It is a brand new world and the kids are going through many different things we never experienced. I think you have to just listen to them. At first you carry a lot of prejudices or opinions and things you never had just from your own upbringing. It’s just trying to keep an open mind, listen to them see where they go try to guide them and steer them best you can really. It’s not easy by any stretch but if you’re in that position you’ve just go with it help them feel safe as they can really.”

Q. What format do you like to listen to music on? “I’ve been enjoying my vinyl again recently. I’ve got a couple of Sonos speakers rigged up to most rooms but my little one Marlie keeps kicking my turntable off, trying to put Peppa Pig on. Vinyl is my go-to and I’m looking forward to seeing the new album record sleeves.”

Q. What kind of music do you listen to? “I listen to mostly older stuff. This morning I was listening to The Cure. The day before that I was listening to Billie Eilish because I love some of the visual stuff she’s been doing in her videos. Misty, my 15 year old, is into that were going to see her in June. I just flick through whatever’s going on really, trying to keep my ear on everyone.”

Q. Have you missed live music? “Yes! It’s been two years, apart from recently a few shows for an anniversary tour. As a band it’s a strange thing not to be performing – I’ve been in a band since I was 12 so it’s where where my body naturally goes to, holding a guitar. Strange not having that outlet or release of the last two years. Been handling everything else that’s been going on but it’s a big part of who I am and what I do has been lacking so to be back on the ride is gonna be a great experience. And everybody in the entertainment industry – the lorry drivers caterers – there a lot of ppl involved.”

Q. How do you take care of your voice? “I do exercises all the time really. The thing I had was called a one-off trauma polyp. It could have been shouting at the football on the TV, it wasn’t really through singing – it could have been anything. But that whole episode taught me a lot really. Recovery and how much the voice means to me. Your voice is always  there and then suddenly it’s taken away from you. You can’t talk for a few weeks until it’s all sorted out, after surgery. I try to come to the studio to do singing every day. It’s just a muscle – you keep it going and do rehearsals with the band every week. I love trying to change it and do different things with it on every record. It’s something I’ve always done. So over the period of lockdown when I didn’t have anywhere to sing there’s a certain amount of adrenaline that’s not getting released really. It’s been good getting out with the boys and doing rehearsals.”

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