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Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Britain Calling - Jan 09



Scotland's party begins on Burns' birthday

Homecoming Scotland 2009 officially begins on 25 January, the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's national poet and cultural icon Robert Burns.

This is Scotland's first ever Homecoming year. It has been planned to encourage people of Scottish descent, and those who simply love Scotland, to come 'home' in 2009 and join in a year of special celebrations.

The programme of Homecoming events will complement the world-class attractions already offered in Scotland. Events will range from the biggest ever Clan Gathering in Edinburgh to Celtic Connections in Glasgow and from the Open Golf Championship at Turnberry to the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

Every year Scots celebrate the poet's birthday on 25 January with a Burns Supper of haggis, bagpipes and readings of Burns' poetry. The haggis is a traditional meat dish served with 'neeps' and 'tatties' – swedes and potatoes.

There are possibly as many as 50 million people around the world who can claim Scottish ancestry. This year's Burns Night marketing campaign has the potential to reach over 200,000 ex-pat Scots and people with Scottish ancestry around the world, who will all receive a message from First Minister Alex Salmond, encouraging them to come to Scotland in 2009.

Homecoming Scotland 2009, 25 January–30 November.

Websites: www.homecomingscotland.com || www.thegathering2009.com


Dinosaurs walk round Britain

The award-winning BBC TV series Walking with Dinosaurs will come to life this summer and tour Britain as a major theatrical event.

The live arena spectacular uses the latest technology to create 15 life-size dinosaurs. The Tyrannosaurus rex (Tyrant lizard) was one of the largest terrestrial carnivores of all time and the show's moving model will be 7 metres (23 ft) high and weigh more than 1 tonne.

The production, which cost £10 million to produce, tells the story of the creatures' 200-million-year domination of life on earth. The show has been a sell-out success in both Australia and New York.

The British tour starts in Glasgow on 1 July and continues until 31 August, with performances in Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester, London, Birmingham and Liverpool. Tickets cost between £20 and £35.

Walking with Dinosaurs

Tel: +44 844 875 9000 box office

Website: www.dinosaurlive.co.uk


Musical anniversaries in Mid-Wales

Mid-Wales' annual Gwyl Gregynog Festival will take place June 12–21. The festival's 2009 programme will be launched on 30 January with a concert by the Alberni String Quartet at Gregynog Hall.

The summer festival is one of the UK's oldest musical festivals. It is held in the intimate setting of the Music Room at Gregynog, a mock-Tudor country house set in 70 hectares (750 acres) of landscaped grounds and wooded parkland in Tregynon village, five miles from Newtown.

Following the festival's successful 75th anniversary celebrations in 2008, this year's programme is based on composer anniversaries, including Haydn's and Mendelssohn's, and their connections with Wales. The closing concert will be given by the choral group The Sixteen, directed by Harry Christophers. It will be The Sixteen's only date at a Welsh festival as part of their annual Choral Pilgrimage and is already attracting keen interest.

Gwendoline and Margaret Davies founded the Gregynog Festivals of Music and Poetry which, from 1933 to 1938, attracted leading figures such as Gustav Holst, Adrian Boult and Walford Davies. Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams also stayed at the Hall as guests of the sisters, and Vaughan Williams conducted the Gregynog Choir in a performance of Benedicite.

Tickets for the January 30 concert cost £10 and are free for young people 18 and under.

Gwyl Gregynog Festival

Gregynog Hall, Tregynon, Powys SY16 3PW

tel: +44 1686 625007 (box office)

Website: www.gwylgregynogfestival.org


Exhibiting the best of Britain and Ireland

Best of Britain & Ireland is the UK's new official exhibition dedicated exclusively to domestic tourism. It will take place 26–29 March at Excel London, the capital's major international exhibition and conference centre.

Best of Britain & Ireland (BOBI) is VisitBritain's innovative successor to the British Travel Trade Fair. It is being organised by an award-winning events company in partnership with VisitBritain, and supported by Enjoy England, Tourism Ireland, VisitScotland and Visit Wales. The exhibition will be the centrepiece of British Tourism Week.

BOBI offers two distinct events: Best of Britain and Ireland Travel Trade Forum is a trade show on 26–27 March, followed on 28–29 March by Best of Britain and Ireland 2009 which is a new public weekend event.

BOBI is designed as a showcase to celebrate the richness of the British and Irish nations and regions. The exhibition will have six main themes: Heritage, Luxury, Flavours, Coastal, Active and Countryside.

Best of Britain & Ireland

26–29 March

ExCeL London, One Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, London E16 1XL

Website: www.britainandirelandevent.co.uk


New works for Manchester's festival

The Manchester International Festival, launched in 2007, has become a biennial cultural festival of original new work and special events. Three shows have already been announced for the 2009 Festival, which will take place 2–19 July.

Architect Zaha Hadid will visually and acoustically transform one of the exhibition spaces in Manchester Art Gallery into a chamber music hall. Across a series of nine concerts, pianist Piotr Anderszewski, cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and violinist Alina Ibragimova will perform Bach's solo instrumental works. The aim is to create a near-perfect visual and sonic environment.

Prima Donna, the first opera by Canadian singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright, will have its world premiere at the festival. The opera is a portrait of a fading opera singer, set in Paris and sung in French. It will be directed by Daniel Kramer, conducted by Pierre-André Valade and designed by Antony McDonald. Soprano Janis Kelly takes the lead role, Madame.

Everybody Loves a Winner is a new theatrical experience created by director Neil Bartlett with Simon Deacon and Struan Leslie. The Royal Exchange Theatre will become a bingo hall, with music, dancing and quite possibly a chance to win some money.

Manchester International Festival

2–19 July, various venues

Tel: +44 844 815 4960 (box office)

Website: www.mif.co.uk


Competitive fireworks in Devon

The 13th annual British Firework Championships will take place in August in Plymouth in south-west England. The event is the biggest professional firework competition in the UK. Many thousands of people come each year to Plymouth's seafront to watch the championship displays, in which eight leading British fireworks companies take part. The winner (Pendragon Fireworks from Cwmbran, South Wales, in 2008) represents Britain in the International Championships. The first firing is at approximately 9pm and there are three displays each night.

British Fireworks Championships

11–12 August, Seafront, Plymouth, Devon

Website: www.britishfireworks.co.uk


Celebrating the Mini's half-century

It is 50 years since Alec Issigonis' design for a small car was launched to the world. The Mini was the car of choice for many film stars, musicians and even royalty. And of course it was also bought and loved by many ordinary drivers.

The Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon in the English Midlands will be celebrating 50 Years of the Mini with an exhibition featuring iconic cars from the museum's collection, including the first Morris Mini produced at Cowley, Oxford, in 1959. The exhibition tells the story of the design, production and development of the car that became a cultural icon and a symbol for the Swinging Sixties.

There will also be a Mini Festival on 4–5 July and a Mini Fortnight the following month (3–16 August). The Mini Fortnight is planned round the International Mini Meet to be held in Birmingham on 8–9 August. The Mini-themed events at the Gaydon Mini Festival and Mini Fortnight will include a series of guided tours, lectures and children's activities linked to the 50 Years of the Mini exhibition.

The Heritage Motor Centre has the world's largest collection of historic British cars. They record the history of motorcar manufacture in Britain from more than one hundred years ago. Every item has been made by or is connected to British motor manufacturers. Following a £1.7m makeover the museum now has three new interactive exhibitions. Admission costs £9, or £7 for children aged 5–16.

Heritage Motor Centre, Banbury Road, Gaydon, Warwickshire CV35 0BJ

Tel: +44 1926 641188

Website: www.heritage-motor-centre.co.uk


A composer's life in a London house

A new exhibition exploring the life and character of George Frideric Handel will open in April at Handel House Museum in London's Mayfair.

The exhibition will be one of many events, performances and broadcasts arranged to mark the 250th anniversary of the composer's death.

From 8 April to 25 October Handel Reveal'd will investigate many aspects of Handel's life, drawing on objects from the museum's own collection and significant loans from national museums and private collections. This is the first exhibition about Handel's personal life to be held at the museum, which is in the house where Handel lived, worked and composed some of his most celebrated pieces, including the Messiah.

Visitors to the museum can see Handel's bedroom, where he died on 14 April 1759, the morning after announcing that he would no longer be receiving guests because he had 'done with the world'. To mark the occasion, the museum will be free to visitors on 14 April with live music throughout the day.

Handel House Museum is open Tues–Sat 10am–6pm (8pm Thur) and Sun noon–6pm. Admission £5, children £2 and free on Saturdays

Handel House Museum, 25 Brook Street, London W1K 4HB

Tel: +44 20 7495 1685

Website: www.handelhouse.org


Shakespeare and more at the Globe

Shakespeare's Globe theatre in London will open its 2009 season on Shakespeare's birthday, 23 April. The new season of plays has the overall title of Young Hearts and will feature Shakespeare's plays Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, Troilus and Cressida and Love's Labours Lost.

The 2009 season will also include the Globe's first excursion into full-scale Greek drama, with a new version of Euripedes' Helen by Frank McGuinness. A New World by Trevor Griffiths will mark the 200th anniversary of the death of the British revolutionary Thomas Paine, and there will also be a revival of Ché Walker's The Frontline, a tale of contemporary London life.

There were 253 performances in the Globe's 2008 theatre season. The performances used 120 actors, 40 musicians and 50 other creative staff, and attracted more than 330,000 theatre-goers.

Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole says: 'At Shakespeare's Globe, each new performance feels like a new burst of energy and a new beginning. The 2009 season of Young Hearts celebrates the heedless joy of youth, a love of life and the enduring passion of our audiences.'

The open-air Globe is a reconstruction of the 16th-century theatre where William Shakespeare worked. The 2009 season runs from 23 April to 10 October. Public booking opens on 14 February.

Shakespeare's Globe, New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT

Tel: +44 20 7401 9919 (box office)

Website: www.shakespeares-globe.org


A 16th-century garden restored

A re-created Elizabethan garden will open this spring at Kenilworth Castle near Coventry, in the English Midlands.

It will present the most complete picture of an Elizabethan garden anywhere in the world. It will feature carved arbours, a bejewelled aviary and a 5.5-metre (18ft) fountain. Queen Elizabeth I was among the visitors to the original garden, which was designed by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in 1575.

The re-creation of a 16th-century garden has never before been attempted on such a large scale. It has been made possible by advances in garden archaeology and the survival of a contemporary eye-witness description of the garden, written by Robert Langham. The garden does not officially open until May 2009 but there will be guided tours every Friday at 2pm and 3pm before the official opening date.

Kenilworth, one of the most spectacular castle ruins in England, will also be hosting a series of Tudor-themed events celebrating the 500th anniversary of King Henry VIII's ascension to the throne.

The castle is open daily 10am–4pm to end Feb, 10am–5pm Mar–Oct. Admission £6.10 adults, £3 children, £15.20 family ticket.

Kenilworth Castle, Castle Green, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 1NE

Tel: +44 1926 864152

Website: www.english-heritage.org.uk


Baroque at London's V&A

Baroque, one of the most opulent styles of the 17th and 18th centuries, is the subject of the spring exhibition at the V&A museum in London.

Baroque 1620–1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence will run from 4 April to 19 July, and will reflect the complexity and grandeur of the Baroque style, from the Rome of Borromini and Bernini to the magnificence of Louis XIV's Versailles and the lavishness of Baroque theatre and performance.

Religious paintings by Rubens and Tiepolo will be on display as well as silver furniture, portraits, sculpture, a regal bed and court tapestries to help conjure up the rooms of a Baroque palace.

The exhibition will be the first to examine all the elements of the Baroque style including architecture, art and design. It will show how, as European power spread, Baroque style reached other parts of the world, captured in objects such as a gilded Mexican altarpiece.

The importance of music and performance to theatrical Baroque style will be reflected in concerts and events at institutions including the Barbican, the BBC Proms, the Handel House Museum, the Wigmore Hall and Glyndebourne. BBC Radio 3 will feature Baroque music throughout the year.

The V&A is open daily 10am–5.45pm (10pm Fridays) admission free. Admission to the Baroque exhibition £11.

V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

Tel: +44 20 7942 2000

Website: www.vam.ac.uk


Ceramics in the Lakes

Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts house in Cumbria in north-west England, is to show the work of contemporary ceramicists whose work makes a statement through its surface decoration.

On the Surface: Contemporary Ceramics will feature the work of six artists. Helen Beard's work combines sketches from everyday life with simple domestic pots made from white porcelain clay. Sarah Dunstan makes sculptural ceramics, and Sara Moorhouse looks at how spaces within landscape are altered depending on the changing seasons.

Adam Frew makes functional pots and large expressive vessels, and draws onto the clay when it is still wet. Lowri Davis decorates her vessels and objects with her own illustrations of flowers, domestic objects and familiar Welsh imagery. Annabel Faraday's method is to print on to raw craft crank clay which has been painted with coloured slips. Most the work on display will be available for sale.

Blackwell is Britain's finest surviving house from the Arts and Crafts period. The house, in the Lake District overlooking Windermere, was designed by MH Baille Scott between 1898 and 1900, and contains fine examples of decorative arts, furniture and objects.

Blackwell is open daily 10.30am–4pm until 31 March, then 10.30am–5pm, admission £6.30 adults, £3.70 children, £16.80 family ticket. On the Surface: Contemporary Ceramics runs from 6 February to 19 April.

Blackwell, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria LA23 3JT

Tel: +44 15394 46139

Website: www.blackwell.org.uk


The Queen's garden opens for visitors

For the first time in its 300-year history, Buckingham Palace is opening its garden to the public for guided tours.

On selected dates in April, May and June visitors will be able to tour the 16-hectare (39-acre) garden of the palace that is the official London residence of the Queen. They will be able to see the palace's famous 156-metre (512-ft) herbaceous border, the wisteria-clad summerhouse, the rose garden, the Waterloo Vase made in Italy for George IV and the Palace tennis court where King George VI and Fred Perry played in the 1930s. The central feature of the garden is a 1.2-hectare (3-acre) lake created in the 19th century.

For over 200 years Buckingham Palace garden has been used by the Royal Family for official entertaining and celebratory events. It is the largest private garden in London and contains 150 mature trees, more than 350 types of wild flower and eight beds of plants native to North America. It is also visited by 30 species of birds and a quarter of the total British list of moths and butterflies.

Every Monday morning when the Queen is in residence, the Gardens Manager sends Her Majesty a posy of the interesting plants that are flowering in the Palace garden.

Tours of Buckingham Palace garden will be available for pre-booked groups of 15–25 people. The price (£20 adults, £10 under-17s) includes an introductory talk, garden tour and refreshments.

Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA

Website: www.royalcollection.org.uk


A historic art gallery expands

The Whitechapel Gallery in the East End of London will nearly double its size when it reopens in April. In a £13.5-million expansion programme, the former library building next to the Gallery is being incorporated into a refurbished gallery.

Included in the expanded building are new galleries dedicated to presenting collections and new commissions, a permanent gallery and research room for the Whitechapel Gallery's historic archive, and an Education and Research Tower including study and creative studios. These new spaces for art have been designed in collaboration with leading artist Rachel Whiteread.

Iwona Blazwick OBE, the gallery's director, says: 'This century-old institution is the artists' gallery for everyone. The exciting expansion enables the Whitechapel Gallery to open all year round so there will always be something free to see. The gallery will become a major cultural resource and a destination for the arts.'

The original exhibition spaces in the Whitechapel Gallery have been renovated and will be the site for a landmark exhibition of German sculptor Isa Genzken, the first major retrospective of her work.

Exhibition highlights for 2009 will include painter Elizabeth Peyton (summer), the return of the East End Academy (summer), Sophie Calle (autumn), changing displays from the British Council collection and from the gallery's archives, and project gallery exhibitions by Julie Ault and Melanie Manchot.

The Whitechapel Gallery was founded in 1901 to bring great art to the people of east London. In 1939 Picasso's masterpiece Guernica was displayed at the Gallery on its first and only visit to Britain. The gallery was also the first to hold British exhibitions of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, David Hockney, Gilbert and George, Richard Long and Frida Kahlo.

Whitechapel Gallery, 80–82 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QX

Tel: +44 20 7522 7888

Website: www.whitechapel.org


Futuristic fashion on show in London

The Design Museum in London is to hold the first comprehensive exhibition of the work of fashion designer Hussein Chalayan.

Chalayan is known for his innovative use of materials, meticulous pattern cutting and progressive attitudes to new technology. He has twice been named British Designer of the Year and has recently been appointed as Creative Director of Puma.

This exhibition, from 22 January to 17 May, covers 15 years of his experimental projects and explores Chalayan's creative approach, his inspirations and the many themes that influence his work such as cultural identity, displacement and migration.

Exhibits will include 'Afterwords', exploring the notion of 'wearable, portable architecture', and 'Airborne', a dress made with Swarovski crystals and more than 15,000 flickering LED lights. Visitors will also be able to see 'Readings', a dress made with more than 200 moving lasers.

Hussein Chalayan challenges preconceived notions of what clothing can mean, rather than just as functional garments. Motivated by ideas and disciplines not usually associated with fashion, his pioneering work crosses between architecture, design, philosophy, anthropology, science and technology. Chalayan's presentations combine beautiful and wearable clothes for today with an intriguing vision of the future. He has also directed art projects, including the short films Temporal Meditations, Place to Passage and Anaesthetics. In 2005, he represented Turkey at the 51st Venice Biennale with Absent Presence, featuring Tilda Swinton.

The Design Museum is open daily 10am–5.45pm. Admission £8.50, students £5, under-12s free.

Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD

Tel: +44 20 7403 6933

Website: www.designmuseum.org


Mansion house becomes a spa hotel

Rockliffe Hall is a golf and luxury spa hotel opening in late 2009 in the Tees Valley in north-east England.

The 152-hectare (375-acre) development at Hurworth Village near Darlington will offer hotel rooms in the refurbished Old Hall as well as newly designed and built rooms in garden lodge houses. The 10-bedroomed Rockliffe Hall, a mansion house built in 1863, is being restored with many of the original features.

A new 18-hole golf course, which will open in June, has been designed by Marc Westenborg and built by M.J. Abbotts. It will be one of the longest and most challenging courses to be created in the UK in the last 10 years, with 90 tee-boxes and 82 bunkers. Nearly 250,000 trees are being planted to encourage the return of wildlife.

The Rockliffe Park estate was owned by Lord Southampton until it was bought by the Brothers of St John of God and converted into a hospital in 1950. It stood empty for several years until 1996 when Middlesbrough Football Club bought it to use as a training centre.

The estate is by the River Tees and offers a good location for exploring Durham and the North Yorkshire Moors. It is near the major cities of Darlington and Newcastle, and not far from the A1 and A19 roads. Durham & Tees Valley airport and the Darlington main North East line railway station are 10 minutes' drive away.

Rockliffe Hall

near Darlington, County Durham DL2 2DU

Website: www.rockliffehall.com


A new centre at the Bard's birthplace

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is opening a new exhibition and visitor centre in April at Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, designed to give visitors a new visual experience and insight into the life of Britain's greatest playwright. The exhibition at the centre is called Life, Love & Legacy: A New Introduction to William Shakespeare. Visitors journey through five zones in what is described as an 'immersive experience'.

Artefacts related to Shakespeare will be presented in a way that encapsulates the excitement and passion of the man himself. Shakespeare's original 1623 First Folio, the pride of the Trust's collection, will be revealed to visitors by theatrical lighting in front of transition gauze.

Diana Owen, director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, says: 'Shakespeare still has powerful resonance around the world and if he were alive today he would tell his own story in an entertaining and theatrical way with sound, lighting, entrances and exits, all the techniques he used so brilliantly in his plays. With Life, Love and Legacy we hope to be able to introduce more people to our work and treasures, and of course to Shakespeare.'

The visitor centre is in the grounds of the house where the Bard was born (Shakespeare's Birthplace will be open as normal during the refit) and the centrepiece of the five houses in and around Stratford that the Trust owns and opens to the public.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6QW

Tel: +44 1789 204016

Website: www.shakespeare.org.uk


A famous author's house to open

The country home of author Agatha Christie is opening to the public early in 2009. Greenway is on the banks of the river Dart in Devon, south-west England. It was acquired by the National Trust on the death of the author's only daughter a few years ago. Many of Christie's stories were written at Greenway, including those featuring Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Thanks to the granting of a Heritage Lottery Fund, the ground floor rooms and principle first floor rooms of the house will be opened to the public. They include the library, where there are collections of Dame Agatha's books, and dolls from the family collection.

There is also a writing desk that was used by the author's daughter Rosalind Hicks and may also have been used by Agatha Christie. Visitors will be able to see the drawing room, where Dame Agatha would read her manuscripts to her family and friends and they would have to guess 'whodunit'.

Greenway, Greenway Road, Galmpton, nr Brixham, Devon TQ5 0ES

Tel: +44 1803 842382 (Infoline)

Website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-greenway


A fresh look for a London hotel

The luxury four-star Radisson Edwardian in Bloomsbury has undergone a £25-million transformation and in January relaunches as the Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel.

The hotel is in the centre of London, next to the British Museum. It is close to London's West End and Covent Garden, a few minutes' walk from Tottenham Court Road underground station and a short taxi ride from Kings Cross St Pancras.

The hotel has 175 rooms and flat-screen TVs and complimentary high-speed wireless come as standard. The Bloomsbury Street Bar and Restaurant is led by Head Chef Redmond Hayward, with a menu that features modern British cooking using fresh seasonal ingredients.

The Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel can accommodate meetings and events for up to 300 delegates. The Folio Room can seat 250 for dinner, or 120 cabaret style. A self-contained Meetings Area can also be used for private dining, theatre style for up to 70 or as a boardroom for up to 40.

Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel

9–13 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QD

Tel: +44 20 7636 5601 (reservations)

Website: www.radissonedwardian.com/bloomsburystreet


Luxury apartments on the Cornish coast

Sail Lofts is a new five-star self-catering development in St Ives, on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall in the south-west of England. The 12 luxury apartments are 20 metres from Porthmeor Beach.

The development cost £1.5 million and each apartment is individually furnished with designer furniture, integrated kitchen, bathroom and showers and spacious lounge areas, some with views of the sea or courtyard gardens.

There will be welcome hampers for guests, and food and wine can be pre-ordered. There is a wet room for storing surfboards, wet suits and sports gear.

Sail Lofts is a few minutes' walk from the Tate Gallery and the centre of St Ives, one of the most visited resorts in England.

One-bedroom apartments will cost from £299 per week in January and a three-bedroom apartment for six people with a large sea-view balcony from £1,032.

Sail Lofts, Porthmeor Road, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1GB

Tel: +44 1736 799175

Website: www.thesaillofts.co.uk


A new role for an old Assembly Room

The Howard Assembly Room in the Yorkshire city of Leeds is opening to the public for the first time in over 30 years. It is to be run by Opera North, one of the leading arts companies in Europe, and from January will showcase a diverse range of chamber-sized work including classical music, spoken word, world music, folk, jazz, film and music theatre.

The opening of the Howard Assembly Room marks the final phase in the £30-million renovation of the Leeds Grand Theatre and the creation of a permanent home for Opera North. Much of the building has been restored to its original Grade II* listed Victorian style. During the day the Assembly Room will be the rehearsal room for Opera North's award-winning orchestra.

Dominic Gray, Projects Director of Opera North, says: 'Leeds has a rich and diverse musical tradition which continues to thrive because the audiences here are interested and interesting. It's our intention to satisfy their curiosity.'

Leeds-based Opera North celebrated its 30th anniversary in November 2008.

Leeds Grand Theatre and the Howard Assembly Room

46 New Briggate, Leeds LS1 6NZ

Tel: +44 844 848 2706

Website: www.leedsgrandtheatre.com


Self-catering in a tree

England's first five-star tree house has opened in Somerset.

The Treehouse at West Hayes, near Taunton, is a new concept in luxury self-catering holidays. It can accommodate up to five people and is equipped with a fully-fitted kitchen, under-floor heating, a plasma screen TV and iPod docking station. There is also a wood-burning stove, a Super King-size iron bed in the master bedroom, bunk beds and a hot tub on one of the decking areas. An outside catering service is available to deliver home-cooked meals.

The Treehouse is built in and around a mature lime tree on a farm. The Rucklidge family, who own the farm, have four small children as well as sheep, pigs, ponies, chickens and dogs.

Katy Rucklidge created the Treehouse and she says: 'We have always wanted to create a Treehouse on the farm to be used as a holiday cottage. We hope the Treehouse will recapture the child in all of us.'

The Treehouse is in the conservation village of Halse, in Somerset in the south-west of England. Halse is between the Quantock Hills and Exmoor, and 10 km (6 miles) from junction 25 of the M5.

Prices start at £645 per week in the low season. The owners will plant a native British tree for every booking.

The Treehouse at West Hayes

Halse, Taunton, Somerset TA4 3AE

Tel: +44 1823 431622

Website: www.treehouseholidays.com


Magnificent chapel restored to life

The hotel and conference group Principal Hayley has completed its £8.1-million refurbishment of Beaumont House in Old Windsor.

Part of the development project, which began in early 2008, was the restoration of a 19th-century chapel. Built in 1870 as part of St Stanislaus' College, the chapel was deconsecrated and boarded up in the 1960s and used as office space. When the decision was made to restore it, historians from English Heritage discovered that the ceiling, altar and stained glass window were still intact, although badly in need of restoration.

The newly restored chapel will provide a banqueting and conference space for up to 170 people. Beaumont Estate has 75 meeting and event rooms so that a number of different types of meeting can to be held at the venue.

The investment also saw the restoration of the historic White House to create an upscale hotel with 16 bedrooms and 10 suites. Beaumont Estate now has a total of 414 bedrooms. It is near Windsor Great Park, 5 km (3 miles) from the centre of Windsor and about 15 minutes from Heathrow Airport.

Beaumont Estate, Burfield Road, Old Windsor, Berkshire SL4 2JJ

Tel: +44 1753 640000

Website: www.principal-hayley.com


Entertaining evenings on the Royal Yacht

The Royal Deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia is being re-created and will be available for corporate evening entertaining from January. Traditionally the Royal Deck, one of the highest on the ship, would be covered with an awning and used by the Royal Family for cocktail parties, receptions and deck games. Its historic appearance is being re-created with an awning-style roof, glass walls and a teak deck.

For over 40 years, until 1997, the Royal Family used Britannia for official visits. The ship sailed over 1 million miles on nearly 1,000 royal visits. It is now docked in Scotland at Leith, Edinburgh, and is one of the UK's most prestigious corporate event venues. Receptions and dinners are held on board in the State Drawing Room and Dining Room. The Royal Deck will bring Britannia's dining capacity up to 176 and receptions up to 380, when used with the State Apartments.

During the day Britannia is a popular tourist attraction, with an audio tour available in 21 different languages, including a children's version and a version for the visually impaired. From March the Royal Deck will be open as the Royal Deck Restaurant serving lunch and light refreshments during the day.

Britannia is owned by The Royal Yacht Britannia Trust, a non-profit-making charity, and all proceeds go towards her long-term maintenance.

The Royal Yacht Britannia

Ocean Drive, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ

Tel: +44 131 555 8800

Website: www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk


London's Heliport gets a new hotel

A new luxury hotel will open this summer next to the revamped London Heliport.

The new hotel will be part of the von Essen collection and the company's first hotel in London. It will have 70 bedrooms, a spa and a business centre suitable for meetings, conferences, product launches and dinner events.

The revamped heliport will have a new customer drop-off and car waiting area. There will be a dedicated main heliport entrance for privacy and secure airside access and security. Business aviation facilities will include a VIP departure lounge and VVIP lounge, business suites and comfortable crew rest areas with access to key aviation information. The project has a working budget of around £50 million.

The London Heliport – the only CAA-approved one in the capital – first opened in 1959. The heliport and the new hotel complex are beside the River Thames between Battersea and Wandsworth bridges.

The London Heliport, Lombard Road, London SW11 3RE

Website: www.londonheliport.co.uk

www.vonessenhotels.co.uk


Grand Ballroom for a London hotel

The five-star deluxe Landmark London hotel has redeveloped two former banqueting rooms into one area to create a Grand Ballroom, which can cater for up to 750 guests at a cocktail reception and up to 500 guests for a dinner.

The Grand Ballroom is designed in the Victorian style of the hotel, with an ornate sculptured ceiling, original chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows.

When the Grand Ballroom is fully open for a dinner, pre-dinner receptions can be held in the Drawing Room, Ballroom, or on The Gazebo on the mezzanine floor of The Landmark's central atrium. An acoustic, soundproof wall can be drawn across the centre of the room to create two smaller banqueting rooms, each catering for receptions of up to 350 guests.

The hotel was built in 1899 as the last of the great railway hotels. It is next to Marylebone railway station. Gary Klaner, the hotel's Executive Chef, won Banqueting Chef of the Year in 2004.

The Landmark London

222 Marylebone Road, London NW1 6JQ

Tel: +44 20 7631 8000

Website: www.landmarklondon.co.uk

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