New theatre company Moonhawk stage Frankenstein

Karen Neville

abingdon

Abingdon’s Unicorn Theatre is the stage for inaugural production 

Catch new theatre company Moonhawk in action from Wednesday, 30th March until Saturday, 2nd April when they’ll be performing a new version of a classic tale. 

The fledgling company will be staging Nick Dear’s version of Frankenstein based on the Mary Shelley original at the Unicorn Theatre full of all the Gothic and romantic elements that have made this tale popular still more than 200 years later. 

Victor Frankenstein (Nick Kovari) constructs a creature from recovered body parts. When his creation comes to life he runs away in horror and abandons it. The creature wanders across Europe, trying to escape violence and hunger. When he is taught to read and write by a blind teacher he learns about his creator and begins a new journey to find Frankenstein and to get answers. 

This is the first production from Moonhawk who will perform a wide range of plays, old and new and welcome anyone and everyone with an interest in all aspects of theatre production, either on stage or behind the scenes. The new theatre company has been created to give opportunities to actors and technicians of all ages with the aim of supporting those wanting to go to drama school. 

Moonhawk founder Leon Witcomb said: “I caught the drama bug over 10 years ago and have been acting, directing and stage managing ever since. More recently I’ve entered the world of producing, hence Moonhawk Productions.  

“We’re based in Abingdon-on-Thames and we use several locations to put on our diverse types of 

drama. We operate an “open door” policy meaning that anyone can be part of Moonhawk – on stage, back stage, production and front of house.” 

Leon added: “My mentor and the catalyst for my drama career is my old drama class teacher, Andrea Mardon. She taught me from a very early age and directed me in many shows and inspired me to take acting and producing seriously. Thanks Andrea! 

“Moonhawk have some really amazing plays, as they say in politics – shovel ready and raring to go! Watch this space!” 

Tickets £10, age 14 & upwards on the door or from www.wegottickets.com/moonhawk

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Where’s Brian’s Bottom? asks Abingdon illustrator

Liz Nicholls

abingdon

Local illustrator Rob Jones always wanted to create a children’s book and, in Where’s Brian’s Bottom? the dream has unfolded!

“I’ve always loved dogs, especially sausage dogs,” says Rob, who lives in Abingdon, “but sadly I’ve never owned one. I’m hoping one day I’ll have one called Brian!”

Where’s Brian’s Bottom? is Rob’s new board book for toddlers that unfolds to two metres long. Young readers are encouraged to help Brian find his bottom in the house and learn about different animals and the sounds they make.

“I didn’t used to draw dogs that often,” adds Rob, “until I illustrated The Funny Life of Pets by James Campbell. I find I draw them all the time now. Anytime I sign a card or book, there will usually be a doodle of a dog.”

Rob studied illustration at the University of Gloucestershire and it was during this time that he discovered a love for making books, toys and puppets. He has made many puppets for the Story Museum’s Christmas production in Oxford. His first book, Bernard, won the People’s Book Prize in 2014. “I owe a lot to the Story Museum,” says Rob. “They were really supportive of me when my first book Bernard was released.

I once took part in an exhibition there called “the illustrator zoo” where visitors could watch me work on book ideas. I’ve made puppets for four of their shows, the first being Winter Mouse, which was made using a sleeve from an old jumper. I’m looking forward to taking my son there once it reopens.

“My advice to any budding illustrators out there is not to give up! There have been many times over the last 10 years when I’ve been close, but something has always happened to keep me going. I am also very lucky, as my family, friends and colleagues are all so supportive of me.”

Where’s Brian’s Bottom? £6.99, ISBN 9781843654667


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Abingdon DAMASCUS Youth Project

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The Abingdon DAMASCUS Youth Project has recently marked its 20th anniversary, youth worker James Quartermain explains ADYP and how it helps

The Abingdon DAMASCUS Youth Project (a voluntary and registered charity) enables young people to make a positive difference in their personal lives and in the communities in which they live.

The project has been embedded in the rural villages of Drayton, Appleford, Milton, Sutton Courtenay and Steventon for almost 20 years though, by request, recently widened their constitution and can now work throughout South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse districts. Current work is focussed in the five villages and South Abingdon.

To mark its 20-year anniversary and celebrate the achievements of the project and all the young people involved, the trustees of the Abingdon DAMASCUS Youth project (ADYP) hosted an award ceremony as part of their AGM, attended by more than 70 people where certificates were presented to 18 young people by the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, Lady Jay of Ewelme.

Also, in attendance at the event were county, district and parish councillors of the five villages; police officers including Chief Inspector Matthew Bullivant and PCSO Alison Blood; Matthew Barber, the Deputy Police Commissioner; three head teachers including Chris Harris from Larkmead; and Vale council officers, as well as lots of young people and their relatives who came to see the awards handed out.

The ADYP offers a variety of different approaches to ensure the highest impact in the different communities in which we work.
We are out till late, in the parks or outside the shops under the gazebo. We are on the ground and available to directly respond to the issues young people raise in the sessions and work alongside them and their community to find a sustainable solution. These sessions are invaluable for those that lack the confidence or social skills to access services that require them to enter a professional setting.

We find that low confidence and self-esteem are among some of the biggest hurdles to young people’s positive social development and being able to value their ability to contribute. Many of those we support we do so one-to-one, working with an individual closely to identify and build their skills and strengths. We have helped many young people (and the occasional parent…) to take the next positive steps in their life, whether that be in the form of a career, education or further training.

Working so closely in the heart of the community and building strong ties with residents we are in an advantageous position to identify and respond to issues affecting the neighbourhoods we work in. Most recently we designed and delivered a workshop exploring the realities of county lines drug gangs and the exploitation of young people to which we invited both young people and parents to do their part in reducing the risks of child exploitation in their area.

Throughout the villages we work in we open weekly drop-in sessions for the local young people to come and socialise. These sessions provide a consistent and safe environment for young people and provides the opportunity to develop their sense of community.

Working at the preventative level we work closely with the local schools to offer support for those at risk of exclusion. We provide educational workshops in an informal style that aims to present a style of learning that is accessible and engaging for all participants.

To find out more about the work of the project and how it could help, visit

Downland Dance open day

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Have you or your little ones ever wanted to be a ballet dancer? Downland Dance are giving you the opportunity to try out a ballet class for FREE during their open day on Saturday, 2nd November.

During the half-term open day, prospective students are invited to attend a FREE ballet class at one of the studios in Abingdon or Didcot. Meet the teachers to learn more about the different classes offered, and ask any questions you may have. You can sign up for sessions for girls and boys aged 3 to 6 or for the Adult Beginners class (Didcot only).

The free open day classes for boys and girls aged 3-6 are at West Wing Studio, Coxeter House, Abingdon and Didcot Girls School, Manor Crescent from 9am to 9.45am. There is also an adult beginners class (ages 14 upwards) from 10am to 11am in Didcot.

Downland Dance was founded in 1977 and offers a range of ballet classes for children and adults and whether you want to take it for fun and exercise or with a view to taking Royal Academy of Dance ballet and character exams, it’s a great way to improve your body and mind.

Dance can have a positive lasting effect on your co-ordination, fitness and flexibility; enhance your energy levels, confidence and self-confidence; improve posture to help reduce aches and pains; build strength, stamina nad agility and increase general physical and mental wellness.

Open day places are limited so don’t delay, if you are interested go the website www.downland-dance.co.uk/open-days and complete the register form. If you have any questions email

And if you miss out on this chance to dance, there is another open day planned for Saturday, 22nd February.

Abingdon’s big party

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Hundreds will be looking forward to enjoying the popular Fun and Music in the Park on 1st June

Abingdon’s popular Fun and Music in the Park returns to the historic Abbey Gardens on Saturday, 1st June with a variety of entertainment for the whole family.

The grounds will be full with rides, stalls, face painting, street food, live music and dance, bouncy inflatables and loads more free activities to keep you enthralled all day.

Fun in the park is a free walk-in event from 10.30am to 3pm and open to all.

It’s also a great opportunity to find out about some of the wide range of local societies and community groups in and around Abingdon and they amazing work they do and how you can get involved.

From 5pm until 10pm, Music in the Park takes over with some fab local bands including Jake in the Duke Box, Nevada, Fallen Angels, The Voodoo Penguins and Hope and Glory, taking to the stage.

Take along a picnic and enjoy dancing on the grass before a proms style concert by Abingdon Town Band accompanied by fireworks to make the evening finish in a very special way.

Music in the Park is entry via wristband only with sales online and over the counter at Roysse Court from 1st May. On this day too, there will be an early morning celebration of May Day in the Abbey Grounds.

Abingdon Town Council, which organises the event is reminding revellers to take all litter home with them after the fun ends.

For more information contact the council on 01235 522642 or visit Abingdon.gov

Abingdon Jazz Festival

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Jumping for joy at Abingdon Jazz Festival

Jazz is alive and well in Abingdon this month when the town plays host to the Abingdon Jazz Festival courtesy of the Friends of Abingdon and Music at the Unicorn.

The festival will take place throughout the town centre including the ancient Long Gallery of the old Abingdon Abbey Buildings from 10th to 12th May. The festival will include at least eight main concerts in the centre of town.

This year’s artists will include Art Themen, Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble, Fleur Stevenson Trio, Funk Bake, New Jazz Sextet and many many more.

Themen will be well known to many music fans of all genres, over his long career he has played with Rod Stewart, Alexis Korner, Joe Cocker and Long John Baldry among others.

Gilad’s music is more of a cultural hybrid, he merges the music of the Middle East and Eastern Europe with jazz and contemporary music.

Exciting modern jazz ensemble Thixoitropy will play new compositions as well as some of the standards; the Fleur Stevenson Trio features one of the new breed of jazz singers and with the Alvin Roy Quartet, The Heavy Dexters, Funk Bake and the New Jazz Sextet there really something to suit every jazz buff.

Chairman of Friends of Abingdon, Brian Brown said they are delighted to be preseting the festival. He added: “The festival will be centred in the Friends’ medieval and atmospheric Abbey Buildings plus other buildings throughout the town. Great musicians, wonderful acoustics ad lots of fun.”

Michael Ward, chairman of Music at the Unicorn called it a “celebration of brilliant live music with something for everyone”. He said: “A third of the events are free so if you’ve never experienced live jazz before this is the event for you.”

Art Themen

a celebration of brilliant live music with something for everyone

For more information and to book tickets visit www.abingdonjazzfestival.org.uk 

Abingdon Air Show

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Abingdon Air & Country Show has achieved soaring success and helped lots of good causes locally so put this year’s even in your diary…

The annual Air & Country Show at Abingdon Airfield, Dalton Barracks has reached its 20th anniversary this year, something the main organiser Neil Porter never thought would be achieved. Once the bills have been paid, over £89,000 has been donated to charities over this period, with a residue left back to help kickstart the following years event. The show relies on public footfall and exhibitors booking in to help fund each show.

The small committee of five people, including Neil, organise this in their spare time, and over time have been blessed with some wonderful attractions. This year will see, among other highlights, a World War Two DC3 Dakota paradrop, recognising the 75th anniversary of D Day.

The show is set for Sunday 5th May, starting at 10am, with various air and ground attractions.

More details can be found on the Abingdon Air Show website

Abingdon events

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Cycling, MG cars, rowing and WWII commemoration all part of an unmissable day in Abingdon

Abingdon is the place to be this Sunday – there’s so much going on you’ll be spoilt for choice!

Start the day on your bike with the Abingdon Cycle Festival which runs from 9am to 4pm with free rides and cycling activities for all ages and abilities.

The event, which offers more than 20 rides for road and mountain bikes and anything else with two wheels, aims to encourage as many as possible to get on their bikes, with rides starting from the Market Square from 9am.

Live music, food and bike displays add to the atmosphere and make for a great family day.

For more on this visit the Freewheeling site

 

If four wheels are more your thing then Abingdon MG car club is holding a rally leaving from Miele at 10am. The classic cars are always a great attraction for watching crowds.

For more details on this see the MG Car Club Abingdon site.

 

From the roads to the river with the Abingdon Spring Head of the River Rowing Festival – more than 360 boats from across the country will race on the Thames watched by spectators at Rye Farm Meadow and along the course past the Marina and along to Culham weir.

There’s a BBQ, local beer, tea and cakes, Morris dancing and much more to enjoy too.

The racing starts around 10am, for more on this visit Abingdon Rowing Centre

 

And if you’re still hungry for more then step back in time with The Thames at War, 1940s Day at Abingdon lock commemorating the water-borne Home Guard during the Second World War, the Upper Thames Patrol.

The day (10am to 4pm) will be full of fun with Home Guard displays, exhibitions, talks, re-enactors, military vehicles and vintage boats, including Dunkirk little ships.

Find out more at the Thames at War website