Highwire act

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Kate Higginbottom grew up in Oxford. A dancer, actor, writer and director, she works as artistic director for Nicole & Martin, an award-winning boutique theatrical circus from mainland Europe, which tells tales from Grimm, loved by all from 6 to 106. The circus comes to North Wall Arts Centre (St Edwards School playing fields) from 10-12 July.

The walk from Begbroke to Oxford

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We did this walk when I was at school, and, unlike most of my school days, I still think about it decades later. It started in the village, crossed fields, and eventually followed the canal. We found old stone brides, ancient oak trees, and a very story-filled landscape. My teacher told us tales as we went; where Charles I  had hidden, how the fields were ploughed, how coal travelled to Lucy’s factory in Oxford. I’ve wanted to do this walk again ever since, and I have made my life since then from stories on the move.

Brill Hill, Buckinghamshire

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This hill lives up to its name. The best rolling-down, running-up, sledging, picnicking, hiding away, 40-40, views, perspectives, and sunsets. We went on family day trips, all through my teenage yeras, and I hazily remember an 18th birthday up there. It’s where I celebrated my 30th.and where I take the children in my life. It’s brill.

 The hammam in Paris

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This is one of my favourite places in the world. I first went to La Mosquee when training after university at the demanding and incredible mime, acrobatics, physical theatre school in Paris. It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. The magical world of the sparklingly-tiled hammam attached to the mosque in Paris was like heaven for a tired acrobat in a busy city, juggling studies and jobs. The silent rooms of steam, the trickling of water, the massages and mint tea, chats with friends. To be recommended.

The White Tent

3833_detailThis beautiful wooden and canvas structure, hand-built, designed by Nicole and Martin and the tent maker, is a glorious thing. It takes 8 hours to put up and 4 to take down. We put it up in a new place every Tuesday all over Europe. On village greens, grand parks, down-at heel car parks, on theatre lawns, mountainsides, playing fields, city squares. Inside is where we work; training, rehearsing, exploring how to create magic, and is where we perform the shows. When we are training our children sit on the red benches and have their tea whilst we back flip, juggle, and stretch. Sometimes they join in. In here I dance, think, concentrate, forget everything. It’s a place that’s peaceful and full at the same time. Sometimes it rings with the laughter of 300 happy people. Sometimes it’s silent and full of goose bumps. It’s always somewhere I want to be.

www.nicole-et-martin.ch

 That castle in Monmouthshire

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There’s a ruined castle just outside Monmouth, Goodrich Castle, that last time I went was delightfully un-signposted, un-museumed, and you can climb all over it. You can even pretend that you live there. Say no more.

E5 bakehouse, London

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This is an amazing bakery and café run by my friend Ben. He started baking bread once a week and delivering to friends on his bike. He now runs a thriving and very happy bakery, supplying most of east London with sourdough breads and more. Whenever I am in there pregnant women in aprons are making incredible pastries, someone is gardening out the back, organic ingredients are being delivered, someone is welding, bakers are baking, there’s a wooden box of pink apples for eating, linen aprons (made by Ben’s mum) are covering bellies of all sizes covered in flour, the ovens produce treat after treat…Hansel and Gretel would be in trouble. It’s irresistible. And there are always peonies in the vases. The whole place smells amazing and the coffee is delicious. It’s my idea of heaven.

www.e5bakehouse.com

Beyond the Border, near Cardiff

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This bi-annual storytelling festival was a revelation when I first attended. I had no idea I would enjoy listening to stories so much as an adult. It’s by a castle by the sea, and is three days of story telling, for all ages, from all over the world. It’s not expensive, it’s not glamorous at all, it’s by a beautiful beach and woods and a crazy castle, like Hogwarts. It’s loads of fun, and there are performers from all over the world. I love it.

www.beyondtheborder.com

 New College Chapel, Oxford

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This chapel is huge! More like a cathedral. And it has masses of people in it; from the colourful and beautiful men and women that fill a vast stained glass window each, each one with the props from their own story, to the 50 ones in stone that rise up behind the altar. There are wooden angels flying out of the ceiling, an amazing Epstein sculpture like the hulk emerging from his T-Shirt (it’s Lazarus) and a fine El Greco. It’s gorgeous and dramatic. And every evening at 6pm there is 40 minutes of sublime choral music sung by children and students that you can listen to for free. I grew up going to this chapel listening to the music thundering out of the hundreds of pipes of the mirrored organ, as my dad played it, his feet dancing over the sea of wooden foot pedals like Fred Astaire.

www.new.ox.ac.uk/chapel-choir

 The Bull’s Head, Craswall, Herefordshire

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Tired and windswept from walking on Hay Bluff in a Force 7, we stumbled across this magical old pub in the Black Mountains. No music, just the crackle of the log fire, the smell of apple wood burning, and of our lunch cooking. Its an old drovers pub, and full of history and character, but in a completely natural way. I fell asleep horizontal on the window bench after the most delicious lunch I have ever eaten, to the sound of the fire and the murmur of voices, and the roar of a storm outside. The treacle sponge was the straw that broke me. I think I might have been the happiest I have ever been. I also have a feeling that this pub has not changed for centuries, and if it has, only for the better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Bucks & Oxon