Jammin’ with Oxfam in Cambridge


A weekend of musical events in Cambridge for Oxfam’s ‘Oxjam’.

As it turns out, I went to a separate event on Friday night. One of the disadvantages of becoming aware of all of these community events kicking off is the frequency of event clashes. What the eye can’t see the heart doesn’t yearn for.

Ceilidh dance at Emmanuel URC – Trumpington Street, Cambridge

I’d never been into the main church hall before. Yet what they had done here was very similar to the St Paul’s Centre in Cambridge – they sorted out the floor to enable a far greater range of events to take place there than just church services. As a result, there is now a huge hall space at a reasonable price for large community events that don’t have corporate budgets.

A packed church hall for Cambridge Round's Ceilidh
A packed church hall for Cambridge Round’s Ceilidh

It’s mainly the Cambridge Round – the University’s English Country Dancing Club that organises these things (See here). What was notable about this one was how little-heard of ‘virtual groups’ in Cambridge managed to help double the attendance, creating a vibrant atmosphere mixing the often separate town and gown communities. The two groups concerned are both organised via  ‘Meetup.com’  and are:

Although some (like myself) subscribe to both groups, they can call on over 600 people to advertise their events to. In this case the two groups between them managed to bring in probably an extra 50 people between them. When you’re a community group putting on an event in a big hall, that makes a huge difference to your budget and turnover for the event. Providing halftime entertainment were the crew from Gog Magog Molly (see here for outfits even more colourful than mine). I don’t know if there is a link in their name with the local Magog Down/Gog Magog hills but I’d like to think there is.

Missing Rock Road Library Apple Day

I was gutted to miss this but mental exhaustion is really catching up with me. I had to leave the ceilidh after the interval as a result. Some pics of the day are here. Also, last year I took Puffles along (see here with Cllr Amanda Taylor). There are a number of other local apple days coming up – including one from Cambridge Botanical Gardens on 27 October.

Grace Sarah unleashes her new tracks at Oxjam Cambridge

Grace Sarah, one of my favourite musicians, kicked off Oxjam with the opening set at The Emperor Pub in Cambridge. She’s still in Year 11 and this was the fourth performance I’d seen her play in as part of wider line-ups. (The first one being here). Have a look and listen to ‘Sunrise‘. What’s been fascinating to hear is how her vocal/tonal range is expanding as she pushes her musical boundaries. Her newer tracks have her hitting the high notes like a nightingale as well as rumbling the low altos too. She’s also put in a couple of thumping piano basslines into her new tracks too – something that I did not anticipate and was blown away by. Credit to the sound crew at The Emperor too – a couple of the other artists complimented them on their skills. The difference between them and one of the other venues was noticeable.

Adam Double’s weekend afternoon chillout session, and one half of the funky Finkel Brothers.

Adam followed Grace with an incredibly relaxing chilled out session – much needed after all that caffeine in the morning.

The track above is one I found off teh interwebz. Adam is also on Twitter. He was then followed by Humfry Finkel, who’s set I can only described as an extremely funked-up Ralph McTell, with the guitar talent to match. It’s a shame the audio and video recordings online are not of a higher audio quality (see here for them on Soundcloud) as Finkel’s use of the bottom E-string gave the impression that he was playing two musical instruments at once.

Flaming June sets The Avery pub alight

If anything, they deserved a bigger audience, but the layout of the top floor isn’t suited for performances. I’d seen Louise Hamilton of Flaming June perform live at a political protest in Cambridge about a year ago. The acoustics of open parkland were never going to match the closed indoors – though that said, the sound quality in the pub didn’t match the people doing the sound at the previous venue. Despite this, it was a powerful, passionate set by the three of them. Hence my opening comment.

Louise Hamilton rockin' the pub at Oxjam
Louise Hamilton rockin’ the pub at Oxjam

Out of all the performances I saw today, Louise’s was the most vocally powerful, reflecting on the musical nature of her songs as well as her experience of live performance. I was thinking how her performances were an eclectic blend of Belinda Carlisle, The Bangles and The Levellers.

What I’d be interested to see/hear is what the trio would be like with a greater number of instruments on board. Her track ‘Psycho’ (see here) was absolutely thumping throughout – though again the studio online doesn’t give a feel for the energy of live performance. Rumpelstiltskin was the one that reminded me of The Bangles vocally too.

Not bland

I’ve criticised mainstream music for being bland. (See here). So ***well done*** to the organisers of Oxjam Cambridge for bringing together a very diverse and talented group of musicians for what I hope raises not just a lot of money for good causes, but also the profiles of both the venues and the musicians. Bear in mind I only saw a handful of performers – all of whom were excellent.




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