Theatre review: The Divine Mrs S

Round & About


Jonathan Lovett reviews the world premiere of The Divine Mrs S by April De Angelis at Hampstead Theatre

Sarah Siddons was not only one of the great actors of the 18th century but one of the first modern celebrities.

Carefully calibrating her image she chose her roles shrewdly and worked with the best portrait artists of the age to represent her as a cultural icon – tragic muse, Lady Macbeth etc. She also spun herself as a devoted mother even though her chosen career demanded she often had to neglect her children.

As such her and her era are fascinating subjects for a playwright as skilful as April De Angelis who penned the brilliant Playhouse Creatures about female actors in the Restoration period, set 100 years before this one.

And yet… even though Angelis’s new play stars the commanding, twice Olivier nominated Rachael Stirling it is but a walking shadow to the life of dramatic technicolour lived by Siddons and her contemporaries.

Set mostly backstage at the Drury Lane Theatre we hurry through a number of vignettes involving Siddons (Stirling), her brother and theatre manager, Kemble (Dominic Rowan), and a host of quirky characters who pop in and out of proceedings.

Siddons is tired of performing in sub-standard romances or revisiting Shakespeare for the umpteenth time and yearns for something fresh and radical. Enters unknown playwright Joanne Baillie (entertaining Eva Feiler) who bonds with Siddons and writes her parts to die for.

So there is a lot of comic potential and opportunity for comment on women on stage and their place in the patriarchal society but the play never takes off and, for the first half in particular, it feels flat.

Too sketchy to fully involve the audience in a strong, engaging narrative; not funny enough to carry us along on a wave of laughter; and lacking the biographical insight to spark interest this is an odd hotch potch that fails to do justice to its source.

It’s a shame as Stirling certainly has the stage presence – as well as the plangent voice of the tragedian – to be a successful Siddons. At the end she is allowed to portray the actress as Lady Macbeth and for a few moments the audience holds its breath in a too fleeting flicker of what could have been.

Until 27th April. Box office: 020 7722 9301

Zone out!

Karen Neville


You’ve done all the preparation and your garden is good to be ‘glammed up’ all ready for you to sit back and relax and enjoy the summer

Courtyard, green oasis, large and luscious, small and secluded – whatever type of garden you have you’ll want to make it work for you and its place in your life.

An increasingly popular way to make the most of your garden is to create zones or spaces designed to suit a particular purpose.

Careful planning even in smaller gardens can result in two or three areas, try a larger focal zone with one or two smaller ones, it will largely depend on how you use your garden space.

Most of us want a relaxation area, somewhere to lie back on a lounger and probably an entertaining/dining area too. Perhaps you work from home and a garden room offers you some escape or just want a space to chill out?

Sit back and consider the choices – patio and/or decking are a good place to start, make space for both if you can and you’re creating zones without realising it. Seating is a must, chairs and a table, anything from a cute bistro set to a full on comfy garden sofa taking the indoors out or a wooden table and chairs fit for a banquet. You may find that once you’ve created your zones, the seating falls into place naturally.

Add a touch of class, comfort and luxury to your garden with unique, high quality rattan and teak furniture and ornaments from Rattan & Teak. Customers can be assured of an expert, premium installation service and bespoke delivery that befits the superior product they are purchasing. Visit for more.

If you’re looking for high-quality long-lasting outdoor furniture covers or gazebo side panels check out family-run, UK-based cover manufacturer – Kover-it. They manufacture all types of covers, including for sofa sets, BBQs, pool tables, durable waterproof sides for gazebos. All are bespoke and manufactured to ensure the best fit. For more info visit

With over 40 years of experience across our family run buiness, you can be confident Surrey Pools and Water can offer bespoke solutions in all aspects of your garden features, including swimming pools, hot tubs and jacuzzis, water features, breakdowns, repairs and maintenance, liner replacements as well as irrigation and rain water harvesting. Operating across all GU postcodes, we pride ourselves on first class quality, excellent workmanship and customer service. More at

Summer is the time to entertain al fresco and enjoy the fruits of your hard work with friends and family. Explore your dining options, do you like nothing better than the sizzle of a burger on the BBQ, like to mix up your toppings with a pizza oven or will only a full-on outdoor kitchen feed your need?

BBQ areas are rapidly becoming extensions of your kitchen, from live fire cooking to the ease and convenience of a Traeger Wood Fired Grills, Black Box BBQ, near Liss, has knowledgeable staff and all the useful gear to ensure your BBQ area is a great place to relax, eat and entertain. Find out more at and call 01420 612591.

Garden rooms have increasingly become an extension of your home and not just for those who work from home. Always wanted to run your own business but not sure where you’d do i? They make the ideal space for a beauty salon or dog grooming parlour and are a great way to gain an extra room without the cost of moving or an extension.

New Timber Spaces offers the perfect solution for the versatile and personalized outdoor space you’re looking for. Their expertise in designing, building, and customizing garden rooms ensures each customer receives a tailored, high-quality sanctuary that enhances their outdoor lifestyle. Transform your garden with a garden room, cabin or outdoor office with their exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail. More at

One thing that’s pretty much a necessity in this country is some sort of shade or cover. Awnings and sails add a decorative touch and are available in a variety of styles and colours. If you’re after a more permanent fixture then pergolas and gazebos will add a stylish touch to cover your furniture or just as a shelter.

In East Hampshire there’s a family firm, Ambassador Timber Buildings, manufacturing and installing premium-quality bespoke, custom-made outdoor buildings in oak, cedar, larch, and other timber, as well as composite cladding finish. They also supply and install aluminium shading solutions. See their advert in this magazine or visit their website –

Need finishing touches to complete your masterpiece? Garden decor such as stylish pots will attract attention, a fire pit will help ward off any chills while lighting will allow you to enjoy your haven late into the night.

Using traditional techniques dating back 4,000 years and hand thrown on the wheel in Crete, these quality pots are fired at 1,150 degrees centigrade, guaranteeing quality and durability, ensuring they are frost proof to endure our winters. Order online at or visit the Crete Pots showroom displaying over 150 pots in the heart of Hampshire.

Prepare for al fresco dining with Culinary Concepts. Set the table with perfect dining pieces and illuminate your space with beautiful garden lanterns. Visit our Hampshire Showroom, at Lodge Farm, Hook Road, North Warnborough, RG29 1HA (just past Newlyns Farm Shop).Visit for latest opening hours.

The door to dreams

Karen Neville


Stepping into a bookshop is like catching up with an old friend, the familiarity and love come flooding back and yet you just know there will be something new to discover. Karen Neville invites you to step inside these independent havens of literature…

As a child I loved pushing open the big wooden door on the bookshop in the town where I grew up to be greeted by an Aladdin’s cave of words wrapped in colourful covers.

There was a whole world waiting to be discovered that ate up much of my pocket and birthday money. The delight I felt when collecting the special copy of Ballet Shoes I’d ordered and handing the assistant the piece of paper with the details felt like I was joining a very special club – the bookshop club.

Sadly that shop is no longer but fortunately for all of us bibliophiles according to the Booksellers Association at the end of 2022 there were 1,072 independent bookshops sharing the love I treasured.

Life’s adventures start with a book according to Blue Bear Bookshop in Farnham which was recently voted 10th in The Times UK independent bookshops guide. Named after a cult novel by Walter Moers, The 131/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, the family-run indie bookshop and café opened in 2019 with a glamorous 1920s inspired interior and serving speciality coffee and cake. The much-loved community hub also offers a diverse schedule of literary and cultural events.

The award-winning Haslemere Bookshop was named the best independent bookshop in the south east of England in the 2022 British Book Awards and deservedly so for the friendly knowledgeable service and wide range of books for all ages, extensive collection of maps, guidebooks and information on local authors. Wander upstairs and you’ll discover three-rooms full of potential hidden treasures nestled among the second-hand treats.

You’ll find more than 7,000 books, cards, games, stationery and more served up at The Old Bakery home of Petworth Bookshop and if it’s old books that are collectible and readable you’re after then head to Reader’s Books in Market Square, Petworth.

One Tree Books in Petersfield is turning 30 this year and in their own words are “passionate about all things literary” and don’t worry if you’re not tempted by what’s on the shelves, they can order in just about anything you want. As with many book shops now, they offer so much more and once you’ve browsed and shopped why not take a moment with your purchase to escape to Ginger’s Café which serves breakfast and lunch in a seated area at the back of the shop or takeaway from the front. Join their book club, go along to one of their special events or book launches or make an appointment with the book doctor for yourself or as a gift. A 30-minute consultation includes coffee and a welcome pack, a chat about your reading tastes and what you love most about books. Musicians can shop the wide range of sheet music on the first floor and order what they can’t find.

Who doesn’t want to run a bookshop-café-bar? ask owners of Goldfinch Books in Alton, Gary, Jude and Andrea for whom it had been a long-held dream and the perfect way to combine their love of literature, music, wine and craft beer – sounds perfect! The trio say: “Books are our passion. Each of us at Goldfinch has our own favourite genres, our go-to books, and our top 10 recommendations. Come in and grab a copy of a new release or an old fave. Browse the shelves without pressure, sit and read for a while, enjoy a coffee, relax and take a breath, or chat with friends. We are here if you want a recommendation, or you just want to talk about books (or anything else for that matter).

“Goldfinch Books is more than a bookshop. It is a place to meet like-minded people, and enjoy spending time. It is somewhere to help us remember to enjoy the journey, and relax our focus a little on the destination.”

They have a special interest in and passion for mental health and have plans to support mental health awareness and education with events and initiatives in the offing.

Laurence Oxley in Alresford has more than seven decades of experience to share with customers, stocking both new and second hand books, including rare and collectible editions as well as art materials, cards, Victorian watercolours and maps.

The Cobham Bookshop has been a thriving indie for more than 30 years and no doubt one of its key attractions is that it welcomes dogs so feel free to take Archie or Ruby along while you browse and shop for novels, children’s books, history, biography and all other genres of non fiction.

Godalming is home to A Novel Idea in more ways than one. It’s a bookshop making a difference in the community, founded by Catalyst and the Welcome Project to help people with their mental health and wellbeing. It is run entirely through donations and volunteer staff with high quality donated fiction, non fiction and children’s books. They also sell second hand vinyl, albums and singles covering rock, pop, soul, folk, musicals, films, classical and more.

As author Evie Woods writes in her novel The Lost Bookshop: “The thing about books… is that they help you to imagine a life bigger and better than you could ever dream of.”

Show your support for independent bookshops in Independent Bookshop Week, June 15th to 22nd, part of the Books Are My Bag campaign, an annual celebration of independent bookshops nationwide, and the role they play in their communities.

Placebo join Southampton Summer Sessions

Round & About


Rock legends join Tom Jones and Madness for this Summer’s hottest shows

Alternative Rock legends Placebo are the latest headliner to be announced for the somewhat long-named TK Maxx presents Southampton Summer Sessions. Guildhall Square is well known as the Cultural Quarter of the City. Proud to be the hub of live music venues, museums, galleries, bars, cafes, and restaurants. This summer will see the square transformed into a buzzing live music hub, welcoming artists from across the globe for this series of Southampton Summer Sessions. That’s far too much sibilance for any festival.

Placebo bought a touch of gothic androgyny and a smart edge to a scene that, in the aftermath of the Grunge explosion, was primarily obsessed with Blur and Oasis. The band are now a duo and still going strong after 8 albums. So, whether it’s Nancy Boy or Every You Or Every Me that floats your boat, Placebo should have the songs to deal with any residual teenage angst that might be knocking about.

Support comes from Friedberg – a four-piece led by Anna Friedberg. Friedberg is also known as Anna F, who was a successful pop star in her native Austria. Now fronting a band comprised of her friends, they specialise in making quirky pop anthems – as evidenced on their latest release Hello or the frantic Midi 8. Definitely worth checking them out live.

These latest names join the already announced Nile Rodgers & CHIC, Tom Jones, Madness, Paloma Faith, and Kaiser Chiefs on the growing lineup of incredible acts taking over Guildhall Square for Southampton Summer Sessions from 15 to 30 June.

Tickets for the latest show go on general sale on Friday 08 March at 10 am via / Fans can follow @smmrsessions for the latest news and updates.

 Placebo headline the festival on Wednesday 26 June

 For ticket information and further updates, music fans should follow @smmrsessions and visit

Spring into Easter

Round & About


Easter comes early this year, March 29th – April 1st, which gives us an opportunity to enjoy the glories of spring as well of course, as eating chocolate!

There’s so much more to Easter than just choccy eggs, for many it has the deepest religious significance, for others it affords a long weekend of spending time with your loved ones hopefully with some bright cheery spring sunshine then and beyond.

This Easter pop along to a National Trust property near you for a family trail. Jam-packed with outdoor activities, games, riddles and crafts, every Easter celebration is different and ends with a chocolate egg.

Make your way along the trail and find nature-inspired activities for the whole family at The Vyne, Basingstoke between March 23rd and April 14th. Limbering up this Easter, families can get active in The Vyne’s gardens as they complete this athletics-themed trail. At 10 outdoor activity stations, enjoy fun challenges such as long jump, egg and spoon race and bean bag shot put before heading to the trail finish to collect your prize.

Go wild for the Easter Trail at Hinton Ampner as you don your bunny ears and take on the challenges the Easter bunny has left behind. A chocolate prize awaits for the best hopping, bouncing bunnies, March 29th-April 14th.

Discover the myths and legends of the Punch Bowl and look out for the Exmoor ponies at Hindhead Commons with activities and challenges for all the family on the Easter Trail, March 29th-April 14.

Thousands of daffodils (more than 40 varieties) are spread across the Pleasure Garden at Petworth and pack nearly 100 plant containers. A colourful free map and trail booklet will take families on a spring adventure that weaves through the gardens. Stop off at six wildlife-willow sculptures on the way – from slugs and frogs to bees and butterflies – for fun games and activities including daffodil hoopla target and butterfly noughts and crosses. March 29th-April 14th. Also shop at an artisan makers market. Full details and all event dates for Petworth Spring Festival, for more information visit the website.

Join the search in the grounds of Whitchurch Silk Mill on Wednesday, 10th April and see how many eggs you can find! Collect a bag on arrival or bring your own basket and hunt high and low around the Mill grounds to find the chocolate eggs left behind by the Easter bunny. Each child will be given a bag and sheet to collect 15 chocolates from different locations around the Mill grounds. £4.50 per child, charges apply to all children wishing to participate in the hunt. No booking is required for accompanying adults. Details here.

Bun & Ted are embarking on another Eggscellent Adventure at Milestones Museum, Basingstoke, in their spring challenge and they need you to help them save Easter. March 29th to April 14th.

A weekend celebrating the onset of spring is bringing together the very best of Surrey’s food, drink, art and crafts at the Rural Life Living Museum, Tilford. Visitors to the Spring Fair can experience a wide range of fun and exciting activities that celebrate spring and showcase the richness of the culture, heritage and natural beauty of the Surrey Hills. Traditional country crafts, live music, art demonstrations, local food vendors, and outdoor woodland activities can all be enjoyed on April 6th & 7th.

The Eggs-travaganza Easter hunt is back at Winchester Science Centre, March 16th to April 15th, but don’t expect to be on the hunt for brightly coloured eggs! In European folklore the Easter bunny was traditionally an Easter hare. Join the hunt around the Centre to find the rabbits and hares that are visiting. Explore the differences between our furry friends and solve the puzzles along the way in order to grab yourself a delicious chocolate treat. Spring also heralds a new season of exciting science fun at Boom & Bloom!

Follow the trail through Highclere Castle’s gardens and woodland, finding clues en route to win a chocolate Easter Egg at the end on Saturday, 6th April. Show off your creations in the Easter bonnet parade, meet some of the farm animals and take to the bouncy slide in a day of family fun for all ages. Please pre-book adult tickets and confirm how many children are coming with you so Highclere can ensure every child receives an Easter egg once they have completed the trail. Donations to the chosen charity on the day (suggested donation £5) are invited when collecting a map for the Easter Trail on arrival.

Visit Gilbert White’s House & Gardens this Easter, join family and friends for a walk through the beautiful spring gardens and try the ‘record-breaking birds egg hunt’ – there are some brilliant birds in the world and on this year’s egg hunt you will find out all about them – and finish the day with a lovely lunch or afternoon treat in White’s cafe. More here.

Image: National Trust/Paul Harris

How does your garden grow?

Round & About


Spring, even the sound of the word lifts your spirits. Little shoots of colour start to emerge and with it hope for the warmer months ahead, so get digging and clearing and start getting your garden in shape

Getting your garden ready for spring should be a pleasure rather than a chore, so it’s time to dig deep and get some spade work in and you’ll reap the rewards later.

Even for professionals such as our expert Cathie Welch, kick starting your garden for spring is no easy task: “Gardening is a real challenge these days and every season will be different.” So where to start? Cathie advises ‘mulch, mulch, mulch’. “The most important thing any gardener can do is to improve the soil. A thick mulch of home-made garden compost, well-rotted manure or suitable compost that is peat free.

“It’s a huge subject but anything that is not wood chip or multi-purpose potting compost should be ok but check to avoid expensive mistakes. A thick mulch will keep in the moisture, suppress germinating weeds, feed the plants, prevent soil compaction from walking on it as well as looking fabulous.”

Having done the ground work, you need to turn your attention to your plants health, which means pruning and training. This time of year is especially important for roses to ensure a fragrant colourful abundance in the summer months to come – make sure you know whether you have climbers, ramblers, bush, shrub and prune accordingly, says Cathie.

And it’s not just roses that need some TLC, “Wisteria is another tricky one that needs its spur prune by mid March as do apples and pears,” Cathie continues, “many other plants can be cut hard back like Spireaea, Hypericum, Buddleia and all the Dogwood Cornus to name but a few. Avoid pruning Acers until they are in full leaf and never prune plums and other stone fruits until the summer. Evergreens should ideally wait and be especially vigilant of nesting birds. When you prune consider making piles or a dead hedge if you have space rather than burning or binning.”

For many of us our lawns are the crowning glory. This month is the ideal time to sow a new lawn or repair worn patches. As the month progresses, it may even be time to cut the lawn again. Some lawn basics – set the mower blades high to avoid scalping. Rake (scarify) the lawn to get rid of debris, dead grass and moss. Aerate badly drained areas of the lawn with a hollow tined fork. Try to avoid walking on waterlogged lawns and working in sodden borders to avoid soil compaction.

Cathie warns against neglecting your lawn. “If you want a green striped lawn then that is hard work scarifying, aerating, top dressing and seeding at this time of year. Think about whether you can let areas grow a little longer or create a meadow (not easy) but you are creating diverse habitats.”

And finally, to planting. Cathie says: “Take time to enjoy the bulbs, emerging shoots and the warming sun.” Find out more advice and about her services at

For over 30 years, the team of skilled professionals at Kingston Landscape Group has been providing exceptional service and excellence in landscaping and garden maintenance to a diverse range of clients. Whatever the size of the garden, they prioritise high standards and attention to detail to ensure your garden looks beautiful throughout the year. Visit and call 0208 893 8992 to discuss your ideas.

After the essentials are done you can get creative and start planting from trees and shrubs to perennials, roses and climbers. The garden centres are full of them just waiting to bloom to life as the seasons progress.

The spring flowering bulbs carefully planted in autumn will be raising their heads and once the tulips and daffs start to go over, it’ll be time to deadhead. Compost the blooms but leave the foliage to die down naturally in order to feed the bulb for next year’s flowering.

The experts at Squires Garden Centres with branches across Surrey have advice on hardy annuals too which can be sown from seed in late March, either where they are to flower or in trays and pots to be transplanted later.

Plants bring a garden to life. Whether it’s planting ideas for a new area or refreshing existing beds and borders, Camelia Ann Gardens can create you a stunning plan, blending colours, shapes and textures that will give you interest throughout the seasons. They can also source the plants and help to plant them. Contact 07977 569297 or find out more at

It’s not all about flowers and an array of colour at this time of year, in the vegetable patch onion sets and shallots can be planted now. “Put seed potatoes in a cool, light position to chit (sprout) for planting later. Early varieties can be planted towards the end of the month,” say Squires. “Broccoli, cabbage, kale, parsnips, peas, radishes and spinach can be sown outside towards the end of March and covered with cloches, or a little later in the season you can buy young plants to grow on. Many varieties of tomatoes and chillies can be sown now in the greenhouse, on a windowsill or in a conservatory.”

Ring the changes with your wedding

Round & About


Celebrate your big day, your way, your wedding day should reflect who you are and with these trends for 2024 it shows you can ‘rip up the rule book’ and surprise your guests

Congratulations! You’ve celebrated your engagement and now’s where the fun / hard work starts. Planning a wedding is exciting and sometimes overwhelming. Why not take some inspiration from the trends for 2024 to kick start those plans for your ‘big day’…

Sustainability is a key consideration for many brides and grooms this year with couples becoming increasingly aware of the impact on the environment of ‘throw away’ items. Many will opt for biodegradable, recycled and upcycled decorations with ‘pre-loved’ dresses ticking both the eco and cost boxes. Charity shops are a great source of beautiful bargain dresses and Oxfam has a website dedicated to them,

Hiring is growing in popularity too for all the reasons above, older readers will remember fondly popping into high street stores for tails and top hats. Searches for ‘wedding dress hire’ have increased with specialist shops offering the opportunity to rent designer or vintage dresses. It’s only worn for one day and if you’re on a budget or are trying not to splash too much cash on one item, it gives you funds to use elsewhere. One of the key dress trends for this year is colour, expect blush or champagne hues, bold brides may even try blue or peach.

Alongside alternative colours and styles are a move towards alternative venues allowing couples to be more creative and often offering a more personal choice – beaches, barns, vineyards and even industrial spaces are becoming increasingly popular as are outdoor options. During the pandemic many couples wishing to continue with their nuptials had no alternative but to say “I do” in the open air and this is continuing especially with brides and grooms wishing to get up close to nature and celebrate in the great outdoors.

Ideally positioned within the heart of the charming historic village of Crondall, Crondall Village Hall offers a perfect setting for your magical day. Opening onto the village green and able to seat 150 guests comfortably, offering a further smaller room which can act as a bar, buffet space or a further entertaining area, a large well-equipped kitchen, parking and competitive packages, making it suitable for all requirements. Please contact [email protected]

Hand in hand with the venue will go the choice of food and again, there is an increasing trend towards less formal fare with couples reflecting their personalities with sharing platters and grazing menus. Both provide a great way for guests to mingle and break the ice, chatting over the charcuterie and cheese, wandering among warm bread and olives. Dessert bars are an original alternative to the traditional cake, choose a variety of mini options that are sure to please even the pickiest of guests, bear in mind you’ll need to cater for different diets but the possibilities are endless.

After the day-long celebration comes that precious time for the two of you to be together and reflect but don’t despair if that bucket-list once-in-a-lifetime trip isn’t possible right now, opt for a minimoon instead. Choose a nearby location and enjoy just recharging and relaxing after the hectic past few months, perhaps extend your stay at your wedding venue and enjoy what that has to offer.

Explore a delightful array of wedding gifts at Culinary Concepts, crafted to capture the hearts of the newlyweds and be treasured for years to come. Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift or a stunning centerpiece, from beautiful barware to charming token gifts, our collection has you covered. Visit for ideas.

Art & soul

Liz Nicholls


John Vardon raises a toast to Arts’ Society Farnham Evening who have been meeting for 20 years this month

Venice was the subject of the inaugural lecture given by Douglas Skeggs to the Cobbett’s Wey Decorative and Fine Arts Society on 14th January 2004. 

Eight months earlier, in April 2003, a group of like-minded ladies got together with a view to setting up a Decorative and Fine Arts Society (DFAS) that would meet in the evening, complementing the existing society meeting in the daytime, and giving an opportunity for working Farnham people to attend lectures.  There was much to do, from finding a suitable venue, through procuring audio visual equipment, creating a programme of lectures, finding a name for the nascent society, drafting a constitution and preparing publicity material to establishing a membership.  In the intervening period, the steering committee worked hard and with success; the society was born.

From the beginning, refreshments were served before the lectures, allowing members and their guests to socialise and the society’s meetings rapidly gained a reputation as friendly as well as informative events.  In the beginning, nine lectures were presented each year but, after only two years, this was increased to ten. The range of lectures has been extremely wide; topics covered have been as diverse as gardens, silver, furniture, tromp l’oeil, architecture, music, bricks and much else.

The society also arranges visits and study days for members, often related to a the subject of a lecture. Members have also been active participants as Church Recorders and Heritage volunteers. Church Recorders ensure that the contents of a church are meticulously described and fully recorded whilst Heritage Volunteers work to conserve artefacts in museums, archives, gardens and historic houses.  Another aspect of the society’s activities was the Young Arts Bursary designed to assist promising young students in their studies to support artists of the future; more recently, the Society has provided financial support to the Woodlarks Centre, specifically in support of the on-site Activity Centre.

In 2017, the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies rebranded as The Arts Society so, as an affiliated organisation, Cobbett’s Wey DFAS became The Arts’ Society, Farnham Evening (ASFE) but it still retained its reputation as a welcoming and friendly society offering an excellent series of lectures.  The COVID pandemic presented further challenges to the Society which went on-line enabling its programme of lectures to continue with only minor interruptions.  However, it was a real joy for Members to reconvene to socialise over a drink and listen to excellent lectures. Over the years, a hard working and cohesive committee supported by enthusiastic volunteers has ensured the success of the Society.  And so at the end of 2023, the Society celebrates the completion of twenty years with the return of Douglas Skeggs, speaking this time on the topic of James Whistler: The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

New members are most welcome or come to a talk as a visitor. Free parking and a glass of wine are included! For further information visit

Pick up a Penguin!

Round & About


Real Penguins visit Rowan Lodge Care Home in Hampshire

Residents at Rowan Lodge Care Home expressed a wish for more animals to visit the home, so Terri Eakins, Forest Care’s Group Activity Lead suggested penguins, and their faces lit up.

On the day of the visit, the communal lounges were packed with residents, their loved ones, and staff members, everyone intrigued…and then they appeared, two Humboldt penguins – Pringle and Widget, came waddling through the door.

Faces full of fascination, everybody wanted to touch and cuddle them. One resident Jean said: “It was lovely, I have never seen it so packed here, they just waddled in. I learned that they have a partner for life and their only enemy is the shark. I would love to see them again.”

Another resident Janet, with a huge grin on her face, talked about how lovely it was to see them.

Pringle and Widget brought much joy to our residents, and their popularity has meant penguin visits to other Forest Care homes have been arranged.

Terri said: “Of all the animal visits to Forest Care homes, the penguins have had the most positive impact on our residents’ well-being. Pringle and Widget visited the rooms of our residents who are less mobile and able, and just sat on their beds. Residents’ faces watched them in amazement and were able to recall their personal penguin visit the following day. This is great proof of how meaningful the penguins were, and even weeks later residents are asking me ‘when are they coming back?’”

Stimulating environments, caring teams, onsite nurses 24/7, complementary therapies.

Call 0333 305 1785 or email [email protected] to arrange your personal viewing at a Forest Care home.

Education Guide: Winter 2024

Round & About


There’s a new year on the horizon and we hope our education special will help you. We take a look at the International Baccalaureate, learning to read as an adult and supporting the mental health and happiness of children.

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Learning for the future

Many schools are choosing to expand their education offering with the International Baccalaureate which examines ‘how to learn’ as much as ‘what to learn’, is it right for your child?.

In today’s world more so than ever children need to become well-rounded individuals developing strong academic, social and emotional characteristics, but how best to help them achieve this.

An increasing number of schools are opting to teach the International Baccalaureate. In its Schools of the Future report in January 2020, the World Economic Forum identified a model of education which “more closely mirrors the future of work and provides children with the skills to thrive in the new economy”.

In contrast to the traditional method of gaining specific subject knowledge, it emphasised the development of key skills, employing a wide-ranging set of characteristics which would enable today’s children to adapt more readily to the challenges of tomorrow.

So what is the IB?

The programme is spilt into four parts for children from the age of three to 19 – Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme, Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme. Schools and colleges can utilise one or more parts of the programme.

Rather than teaching a predefined set of information in preparation for a test / exam at the end, the IB focuses as much on ‘how to learn’ as ‘what to learn’ reinforcing the idea that this better equips children with the skills they need for the world at large.

Pupils still learn the content giving them the knowledge but it is more ‘self directed’ allowing them to develop the necessary critical life skills. Teachers are also given more freedom in the way in which they teach as subjects may develop along a different path depending on the existing knowledge levels and interests of pupils, rather than covering the same content in each academic year.

Children also benefit from the connectivity of the IB syllabus with teaching staff coming together with common topics (units of inquiry) so everything interlinks. For example, children may be learning about The Great Fire of London – in an English lesson they may read books and write about it, in art and DT they may build models of the houses, in science they may look at how fire spreads and then in maths, use this data to explore equations. While there is still separate and distinct teaching in some areas, a large portion of the learning is built around topics, better replicating the real world problems likely to be faced which are multi-faceted and benefit from a more all-round approach that learning of this type encompasses.

“IB students have the opportunity to reflect upon what they already understand”

One such school which has adopted this method is St George’s School Windsor Castle, which last year became the first standalone prep school in the country to be certified as an IB World School. It employs the Primary Years Programme from kindergarten to Year 6 (3-11 years of age) and then the Pre-Senior Baccalaureate in Years 7 and 8 (11-13 year olds).

Head of Pre-Prep at St George’s School, Emma Adriano spearheaded the roll out and said they realised the “rapid change of pace and uncertainty around the future job market required a bold change of strategy”.

“Rather than learning subjects by rote with the sole goal of passing exams, IB students have the opportunity to reflect upon what they already understand, identify their own knowledge gaps and areas of interest and explore how to research and develop a deeper understanding of each topic across a range of subject ideas and practical applications.”

She added: “Fundamentally, alongside imparting knowledge, the curriculum teaches not what to think, but how to learn.”

As with everything in life, the IB is not for everyone and critics cite those who have very defined career paths in mind such as physicists for whom specialisation may be more relevant with the need to focus heavily on maths, further maths and physics at A Level as opposed to a more broader curriculum.

Pupils choosing to study the IB Diploma (16-19 year olds) which focuses on six subject areas over the two-year course, need to be organised and committed as well as being an independent thinker and learner and be able to communicate their learning well, oral presentations are a key feature.

In terms of life skills and developing a critical balance of knowledge, skills and mindset – the IB is highly rated. Some schools offer both options to suit individual needs giving students more choice.

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