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A night out

a house that has a sign on the side of a building

A night out

Cambridge has always been a great place for theatre, with opportunities across the city to watch a great variety of shows. For mostly professional shows, try the Arts Theatre (founded by economist John Maynard Keynes), which hosts many touring companies including pre and post West End runs. It also puts on the biennial Greek play (in Greek). Where else (other than Greece), would you expect to see a play in Greek than Cambridge?

Another treat takes place during the summer, when there is a professional Shakespeare season in the perfect setting of college grounds, usually accompanied by some mulled wine. For those with babies this could be a perfect chance to get out without the hire of a babysitter, although you may have to discreetly retire at some point if your little one decides it is ‘not to be’.

The University is a haven for spotting early talent, and none more so than the ADC (Amateur Dramatic Club), established in 1855, the oldest university theatre in the country, and home to the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Society, the oldest university dramatic society in the country. It has been a rookery for theatre across the country, with numerous of its players rising to greatness: four of the six National Theatre directors were former members (Peter Hall, Richard Eyre, Trevor Nunn, Nicholas Hytner). The ADC also hosts other theatre groups, including the University’s Footlights Dramatic Club, commonly known simply as Footlights, which began in 1883 and still do their ‘smokers’ (a collection of sketches). It grew to prominence in the 1960s, with annual visits to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and its members Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller joining the hugely popular Beyond the Fringe. It then continued to produce stars such as John Cleese, Eric Idle and Graham Chapman (Monty Python) and Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry (Jeeves and Wooster).

Many colleges and Anglia Ruskin University (with its Mumford Theatre) put on their own shows, so much so that within three years of being at Cambridge I managed to see over 30 different Shakespeare plays, the standard of which ranged from the truly abysmal to the outstanding.

There are the standard multiscreen cinemas, such as Vue at the Grafton Centre and Light Cinema at the Cambridge Leisure Park. The Arts Picturehouse above Wetherspoons has three screens and is the main arts cinema in the city, with an annual film festival.

For a real night on the town, there is no shortage of night clubs, such as Ballare (popularly known as ‘Cindies’, located in Lion Yard, it’s been open for some 50 years and has perhaps the biggest dance floor around), Lola Lo (located by the Corn Exchange with a great rooftop terrace, which is the sort of place people love or hate), Hidden Rooms (beneath Pizza Express on Jesus Lane, famed for its cocktails and great jazz), the fairly recently opened Vinyl (right by Waterstones, with great illuminated dancefloors and private booths to hire) and close by in Market Passage, the Fez Club (perhaps the most studenty of them all). Of course, if you are a student, your first stop will be your college bar, followed by the King’s Bunker and Clare Cellars.

Music of every kind is massive in Cambridge, both taking part and listening. Cambridge Philharmonic has a full symphony orchestra and large chorus, giving concerts at West Road Concert Hall and King’s College, amongst other venues. Britten Sinfonia is a Cambridge-based chamber orchestra with an international reputation. The University has a massive amount going on, with many colleges holding regular choral evensongs in their chapels and forming their own orchestras and choirs. The CUMS (Cambridge University Music Society) Chorus does ambitious large-scale works, and is open to all on an audition-only basis.

The Corn Exchange is the largest venue, hosting both professional and amateur productions across the full range of classical, rock and pop music, plus opera, ballets and musicals. The Junction is another venue with a wide variety of shows, and once a month it showcases a handful of local bands in its ‘Fiver’ events. You might hit on a crowd pleaser – several members of Pink Floyd were local lads, with links to the Flying Pig pub that still is central to the live-music scene as long as the developers don’t get their way. The Portland Arms is another live-music venue, attracting bands on national tour. Mill Road was the location for the first Andy’s Records store, which grew to be the UK’s largest independent music retailer in the 1990s, before collapsing into administration in 2003. Meanwhile, the Cambridge Folk Festival has an international reputation and draws people from far and wide each summer (see Festivals).

– Christopher Jagger ‘King’s College, Alumni’

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