A sneak peek at some of this year’s Open Cambridge events  

Dr Annie Gray, Mill Road Cemetery and What does the UK eat?

Dr Annie Gray, Mill Road Cemetery and What does the UK eat? will all feature in this year's Open Cambridge events. - Credit: Kristy Noble Photography / Claire Martinsen / National Diet and Nutrition Survey

Organisers of Open Cambridge, one of the region’s most popular free annual festivals, have revealed some of the live and digital events everyone can enjoy this year.

A series of fascinating insights include the revelations of what and how the Churchills ate, and a look back at the ever-changing history of Indian restaurants in Cambridge.

There's also a walking tour full of stories including the 'great meat scandal', and a fun, foodie history hunt.

These are just a few of the many events on offer at Open Cambridge, which runs from Friday, September 10 to Sunday, September 19.

Run by the University of Cambridge Public Engagement team and supported by the Cambridge BID, Open Cambridge has extended its usual three-day run to 10 days of tours, walks, films, talks and a host of activities to celebrate the unique heritage, culture and community of the city.

The aim is to highlight the city’s culinary heritage and culture under this year’s Heritage Open Day’s theme ‘edible England’.  


The full Open Cambridge programme will be available from Monday, August 16. Bookings open on the same day.

Here's a sneak peek at what's on the Open Cambridge menu in 2021.

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Open Cambridge 2021 events

Winston Churchill's food

Renowned food historian Dr Annie Gray reveals what the Churchills ate during The Cook, The PM, His Wife and Their Foodways: archival adventures concerning the Churchills and their food.

Dr Annie Gray

Dr Annie Gray reveals what the Churchill’s ate during, The Cook, The PM, His Wife and Their Foodways: archival adventures concerning the Churchills and their food. - Credit: Kristy Noble Photography

The talk is followed by a conversation with Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre. 

A self-declared lover of beef and butchers’ meats, and a man who well knew the publicity value of a good meal, Winston Churchill was a keen eater, drinker and bon viveur.

One of Britain’s leading food historians, Dr Gray discusses what and how the Churchills ate – ranging from exhaustingly long Edwardian menus, through to the pared-back light lunches of World War Two.

Dr Gray not only paints a picture of the changing dining habits of the Churchills themselves, but also reflects on wider trends within food in fashionable society.

She shows how the Churchills (or more precisely, their cook) managed the ration – spoiler: a lot like everyone else, but with a great deal more venison and useful friends abroad.

Dr Gray has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet, and cooked Victorian pies and Tudor stuffed boars’ heads on BBC Two.

Her books include The Greedy Queen: eating with Victoria, Victory in the Kitchen: the life of Churchill’s Cook, and the forthcoming At Christmas We Feast: Festive Food through the Ages.


A taste of India

Britain’s relationship with Indian cuisine has a long history, dating back over 400 years to the 1600s.

In Mill Road History presents: The History of Indian Restaurants in Cambridge, Shahida Rahman explores how the curry industry started and how it has led to decline today.

The history of Indian restaurants in Cambridge.

The history of Indian restaurants in Cambridge. - Credit: Cambs Collections

She also discusses the history of these restaurants in Cambridge, including the Kohinoor, which opened on Mill Road in 1943, and the story of her father, who established two restaurants in the 1960s and 70s. 

Speaking ahead of her event, Shahida said: “The first Indian restaurant opened in 1810 by the King George IV's shampoo surgeon, Sake Dean Mahomet, called the Hindoostani Coffee House in London.

"In the years between World War I and World War II, the Indian restaurant community started to expand beyond London.

"As the number of Asians entering Britain increased so did the demand for more Indian restaurants and so business within the Indian cuisine market gathered momentum.

“It was during the 1950s and 1960s, when a large influx of Punjabis, Bengalis, Kenyans and Africans migrated to Britain that the Indian restaurant concept started to spread even further throughout the UK – which now boasted around 500 Indian cuisine eating establishments.

"A handful were established in Cambridge. One of them being my late father, Abdul Karim, who established the New Bengal Restaurant in 1963.”


Cemetery walk

Local expert researcher, Claire Martinsen, takes visitors on an hour-long walking tour of one of Cambridge’s lesser-known places of interest: the Mill Road Cemetery.

Mill Road Cemetery

Mill Road Cemetery - Credit: Claire Martinsen

Along the way, she discusses the food fraud scandal that rocked the University of Cambridge and reached the national newspapers in the late 19th century.

The tour will also visit monuments of others connected with the food or hotel trade in Victorian Cambridge where business boomed for many as the town expanded rapidly.


Histories hunt

The city of Cambridge’s rich culture of feasting is vividly brought to life again during the Feasting Histories Hunt.

During this event, visitors can explore a selection of places, from Parker’s Piece and Pembroke Old Court to King’s College Drawing Room and the Fitzwilliam Museum, and find out stories related to the history of communal dining in Cambridge.

People can choose to visit specific venues at their own pace by following a downloaded digital map.

After scanning a QR code on display at each venue, a story unfolds as a short video on mobile devices. 


Food survey

Another event tipped to be popular this year is What does the UK eat? The national diet down through the decades.

What does the UK eat?

What does the UK eat? is an interactive online session that goes behind the scenes of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. - Credit: National Diet and Nutrition Survey

Dietary assessment experts, Angela Mulligan and Dr Toni Steer from the MRC Epidemiology Unit, present an interactive online session that goes behind the scenes of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.

Viewers can learn about how the survey has played its part in dietary guidelines and our health, muse on the trends in foods and fads that have come and gone, raise their eyebrows at the level of detail, and chuckle at the funny bits.


American Cemetery

The 30 acres of ground that make up Cambridge American Cemetery includes fine lawns, formal and informal planting, ancient woodland and over 1,000 roses.

Horticulture at a Memorial Site

Horticulture at a Memorial Site will centre on the Cambridge American Cemetery. - Credit: Cambridge American Cemetery

Head gardeners Paul Hinchley and Alex Shore will take visitors on a walking tour around the gardens in Horticulture at a Memorial Site.

Along the way, they describe the original landscape architect’s vision and share their experiences, and those of the grounds-keeping team, regarding the maintenance of this diverse site.


Cambridge Central Mosque

What does Islam teach about eating well and looking after ourselves?

Cambridge Central Mosque present an online discussion about the Islamic perspective on physical health.


For more information about Open Cambridge visit the website www.opencambridge.cam.ac.uk/


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