The Romans are coming to Ely Museum!

Fun for all the family!

Beat the January blues with a fun day out at Ely Museum on Saturday 2nd February.

Meet Marcus, the Roman Soldier and learn about his life.  Dress up as a Roman and learn more about how the Romans lived. There will also be some fun Roman themed crafts to make & lots more for all ages to enjoy!

All activities are included in the normal admission price. Free entry to existing annual ticket holders.

There is no need to book, just pop in to the museum between 11am and 3.30pm to enjoy one of our popular living history days.

Ely Museum is located on the corner of Market Street and Lynn Road only 250 metres away from the Cathedral’s west door.

Ely Museum’s opening hours are : Mon-Sat 10.30am – 4.00pm, Sun 1.00 – 4.00pm.

Adults £4.50, concessions £4.00, children 5-16 £1, under 5’s free.

Tickets provide a year of free return entry.Website

Press release from Ely Museum

The Tigers scored eight unanswered tries in a better defensive display than the previous week

Ely crossed the whitewash within the first few minutes of the game. Charlie Coupland darted through the opposition defence, similar to last week’s score, and dotted down for a converted try. The Tigers crossed again moments later when Matt McCarthy dived over in the corner from a clever counterattack. The Tigers began to concede penalties which halted the scoring for several minutes. Ely showed a solid defensive display to keep out Thetford when they kicked for the corner several times. In the end they opted to go for the three points. The Tigers got back on the scoreboard when man of the match Oscar Edwards shipped the ball wide and an impressive flick-pass from fly-half Ryan Clark put Joel Scott Paul into the corner for an unconverted try.

In the second half Ely came out of the blocks. Jacob Muncey scored a brace of tries. Nathan Brooks somehow ripped the ball from the opposition and dotted down when Thetford tried to run it out of their five-metre line. Thomas Jackson ran straight through the defence after a splendid dummy and crashed over for a converted try. In the dying minutes of the game Jackson was involved again when he cut a line straight through but was brought down before the twenty-two, he was able to get the offload to McCarthy who weaved his way to the try line to finish the game at 52-3 to Ely.

Press release from Ely Tigers Rugby Club

Photo Credit: Steve Wells

Flying start to 2019 for Barracudas

The New Year got off to a flyer on Sunday for the City of Ely Swimming Club at the Borough of Waltham Forest Swimming Club’s New Year Meet at the London Aquatic Centre.  

The Olympic pool inspired success for the Ely Swimmers who brought home 38 medals and 109 personal best times. There were also impressive overall performances over the day from Georgia Holgate winning Top Girl 11yrs, Maximillian Veiga winning Top Boy 11yrs and Daniel Kendall winning both Top Boy 12yrs and Best Overall Boy of the Open Meet.  

Those bringing home medals to Ely were Georgia Holgate 4 gold and 1 silver, Daniel Kendall 1 gold, 2 silver and 6 bronze, Robert Banwell 1 gold and 1 silver, Maximillian Veiga 3 gold and 2 bronze, Oliver Davey 2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze, Lexi Harrison 1 gold and 1 bronze, Amelie Hawksley 1 silver and 1 bronze, George Sporle 1 silver, Bryony-Rose Brodie 2 bronze, Tia Hill 3 bronze, Jake Challenger 2 bronze and Olivia Brodie 1 bronze.  

Mark Banwell, Amber Lloyd, Orla Harrison, Cade Kirkpatrick, Nathan Okoro, Isabella Pillow, Callum Bridges, Erin-Mae Carey, Dominic Jones and Hannah Turner gained personal best times.

The success sets the club up well for the Cambridgeshire County Championships starting on 19th January.

Press release from Ely Swimming Club

Voice Trials 2019 – calling all potential new cathedral choristers!

Children with a love of music and singing are being given the chance to join the world famous Ely Cathedral Choir.

And this year, for the first time ever, auditions for both girl and boy Ely chorister places are being held on the same day – Friday, January 18th.

Being a chorister at Ely Cathedral and King’s Ely is something very special: singing Evensong in the Cathedral, sharing life with the other choristers, being part of a happy, talented group of boys and girls – it’s an experience that will stay with them throughout their lives. For many, it will also mark the beginning of a successful and fulfilling musical career.

The choristers sing daily in the magnificent surroundings of the Cathedral, and all are educated at King’s Ely, receiving a scholarship which pays a generous proportion of their fees. Boys join the Cathedral Choir in Years 3 to 5. Girls join in Years 7 to 9.

Director of Music at Ely Cathedral, Paul Trepte, and Director of Ely Cathedral Girls’ Choir, Sarah MacDonald, are encouraging boys and girls from all backgrounds to audition. Paul Trepte said: “We are looking for potential, rather than a fully trained singer! Enthusiasm, a good musical ear and a clear natural voice are the most important things. We also look for reasonable concentration and reading skills, and a supportive family. Membership of a Cathedral Choir is probably the best musical training a child can have, and Ely is proud to offer this opportunity to both girls and boys.”

The Voice Trials day will include a short and relaxed audition with the choir’s director and music staff from King’s Ely. There will be a chance to visit the boarding houses, tour the school and parents of candidates will be able to meet key personnel from both the school and the Cathedral.

To book your child’s place for the auditions, please visit or Alternatively, please call King’s Ely’s Admissions Department on (01353) 660707.
To find out more about girl choristerships before submitting an application, please contact Sarah MacDonald: (01353) 660586 or email For boy choristerships, please contact Paul Trepte: (01353) 660336 or email

Press release from King’s Ely

Ely Tigers hold out for victory in a tough physical encounter with Crusaders

The Tigers crossed the line first when the ball was shipped wide to Jacob Muncey who ran through the opposition defence to touch down under the posts. Ely then conceded a penalty in their twenty-two and the opposition opted for the three points. The Tigers conceded more penalties which gave the Crusaders the upper hand. They kicked for the corner then crossed the line for a converted try. Both teams traded a brace of tries, once more through Jacob Muncey and man of the match Charlie Coupland cut an inside line and stepped two defenders before he dived over the line. At the break the Crusaders were ahead 19-22.

The high scoring game continued in the second half and it was neck and neck, whenever Ely scored, the Crusaders answered with a try of their own. Matt McCarthy and Coupland both scored in a similar vein when the ball was shipped wide, they stepped and darted through the opposition defensive line. The deadlock was broken when finally, Ely’s score was unanswered. James Buckland cut a line and ran straight through a gap but was brought down five metres short. Tom Green was on hand to pick and go for a converted try. In the final minutes of the game the Crusaders had the ball and were only six points behind. A solid defensive effort forced the opposition backwards which resulted in a knock-on and ended the game at 40-34 to the Tigers.

Press release from Ely Tigers Rugby Club

Photo credit Steve Wells

Local Building Firm Raises The Roof at National Awards

An Ely-based building firm is celebrating after scooping a prestigious award at a national ceremony last month.

D.G. Building won the title of Best Local Builder or Traditional Craftsperson at the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) Building Excellence Awards Grand Finals.

The LABC Building Excellence Awards are the largest business to business awards in the building control sector.

The awards highlight teams that have battled with complex issues as well as building site constraints during construction. They showcase creative solutions and building control professionalism that leads to safe, sustainable and high-quality construction projects.

Jason Johnson, Building Control Team Leader at East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We were more than happy to endorse D.G. Buildings nomination.

“We have worked with David for approximately 12 years and seen his company grow from a fledgling one man business to a thriving, respected construction company.”

Councillor Neil Hitchin, service delivery champion for building control at East Cambridgeshire District Council said: “The Building Control team put their heart and soul into working with local contractors to provide a positive building experience for everyone.

“Our philosophy is about building relationships with local construction companies. D.G. Buildings continuously tender for projects that are beneficial to the local community and they go to great lengths to ensure all their work is of the highest standard.

“It’s excellent to see them recognised for their outstanding work. Thoroughly well deserved.”

Director of D.G. Building, David Gipp, was particularly commended for a new-build site where his team overcame a number of challenges, including having no mains gas supply and opting to use air source heat pumps to provide a more eco-friendly source of heat.

On the award win, David Gipp said: “I’m absolutely thrilled D.G. Building has been recognised in such wide-scale national awards. It’s an amazing achievement for us, and gives well deserved recognition for all the hard work my team have put in over the last few years.”

“We pride ourselves on carrying out all of our projects to the highest standards, and are able to carry out all types of work from accessibility conversions right through to new builds which sets us apart from most companies.”

“We enjoy a great working relationship with the team at East Cambs Building Control, and are looking forward to many more successful years working with them to deliver a first-class construction service to the local area.”

To find out more about the Building Control team at East Cambridgeshire District Council, view their page on the website:

Press release from East Cambridgeshire District Council

A Winter Wonderland, Where Memories Were Made

Littleport Community Primary and the PTFA recently held a spectacular frosted wonderland, which was advertised by way of a fun event countdown.

Teachers, parents and the PTFA worked together to provide an enjoyable evening, for both the young and the old. The event, 3 months in the making.

Promising excitement , celebration and most of all a festive sprinkling of sparkle and a guest appearance by the main man himself – SANTA! (A very busy man whom, I am reliably informed, felt compelled to visit the school. After he had found out, how well behaved and hard working the schools children are)

An amusing moment was when Rachel Dray from the PTFA, was busy serving hot chocolate. When she accidentally spilt some. One very young child, then explained: that he was off to tell Santa and that she was very naughty!

It was a spectacular night, with craft stalls, a teacup ride, a frosted forest light trail, fun games, free hot chocolate whilst waiting for Santa and a hog roast.

The Lakenheath Silver band provided some big band Christmas music. The beautifully lit forest scenes and all the lighting, was managed by McLatchie electrical.

The event finale was provided by the super

As the families looked on. The sky was illuminated, by a stunning firework display. Full of colour, bangs and in time with the display music: ‘The Greatest Showman’.

The school and the PTFA have received so many positive feedback about the event. All saying, thankyou, for such a memorable time.

The total raised from ticket sales and on the night funds, is in the region of £2000.

This will enable all the year six pupils this year to have an amazing London theatre trip, complete with boat trip along the Thames.

Maria x


Father Christmas Comes to Ely Museum

Come and see Father Christmas in his Victorian Parlour on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th  December – that’s the invitation from Ely Museum to children everywhere.

“Every child visiting Father Christmas will receive a present and there will also be the chance for them to enjoy some Christmas crafts,” said Curator Elie Hughes. “It promises to be a fun day for the whole family. Parents and grandparents will find stocking fillers for all ages in our museum shop and there will be a tombola and refreshments,” added Elie.

Entrance to Ely Museum on the day will be FREE for everyone. There will be a charge of £3.50 for children wishing to visit Father Christmas who will be in his parlour from 10.30am-12.30pm and from 1pm-3pm on Saturday and 1pm-3.30pm Sunday.

City Cycle Centre and MHH partnership Ltd. will once again sponsor the event.

Find Ely Museum in the city centre on the corner of Lynn Road and Market Street, just 250m from the West Door of Ely Cathedral. Entrance is on Market Street.

In the run-up till Christmas Ely Museum is open from 10.30am-4pm Monday, Wednesday-Saturday and from 1pm-4pm on Sundays. The Museum will be closed from 22nd

December and re-open 2nd January. For further details tel. 01353 666655.

Press release from Ely Museum

King’s Ely crowned Isle of Ely District Cross Country Champions

King’s Ely was delighted to both host and win the Isle of Ely District Cross Country Championships.

Students from Ely College, Witchford Village College, Littleport and East Cambs Academy, Cromwell Community College, Neale-Wade Academy and Wisbech Grammar School travelled to King’s Ely to compete in the event on November 15th.

King’s Ely came first, Wisbech Grammar School came second and Cromwell Community College came third. A total of 37 King’s Ely Junior and Senior pupils qualified for the next round of the Championships, which are being held at Netherhall School in Cambridge in January.

Teacher of PE and Games at King’s Ely Junior, Charlotte Fletcher, said: “It was fantastic to be able to both host and win the Isle of Ely District Cross Country Championships, which were blessed with glorious winter sunshine this year. Congratulations to all students for their efforts, particularly those who qualified to represent their school in the next round of the Championships!”

To discover more about opportunities at King’s Ely, please visit

Press release from King’s Ely 

Calling all Tree Lovers!

We are a newly opened campsite in Queen Adelaide set in 5 acres of beautiful fen countryside. Our campsite has been carefully laid out to protect the natural habitat of dragonflies, birds, and mammals and make it a haven for all nature lovers. Despite extensive planting in the summer, the hot weather has unfortunately killed off many of the early trees and hedges that we put in.

We now desperately need help to re-plant over 800 new ones!

We are holding a community tree planting morning on Sunday 25th November, starting at 10 am and would really appreciate any voluntary help to undertake this mammoth task before the bad weather sets in. In return we can keep your energy levels up with a supply of bacon sandwiches (Vegan options also) and cups of tea.

Please contact us on 07796 261211 if you are able to help so I can ensure plenty of food is available.




King’s Ely through to third round of England Hockey competition

King’s Ely has qualified for the third round of the England Hockey National Schools Tier 1 Competition.

King’s Ely’s 1st XI girls played against Wellingborough School in the second round of the fiercely-contested competition on November 8th. The girls qualified for that round after beating Stamford High School 3-0 in the preliminary round last month, with all three goals scored by Rebecca Daniel.

In the match on November 8th, King’s Ely were 4-1 down up until the last eight minutes of the game. With sheer grit and determination, and Rebecca on her usual top form, the girls fought back to win 5-4 – with Rebecca scoring all five goals.

Head of Girls’ Games at King’s Ely, Chanre Bond, said: “I am extremely proud of the entire team and the way in which the girls never gave up. The delight and happiness on their faces after the match was one I will never forget. Well done to all of you, you are a super team!”

The girls have qualified for the third round of the England Hockey National Schools Tier 1 Competition, which is due to take place before the end of the Michaelmas Term.

At King’s Ely, we are passionate about sport and firmly believe that all students should enjoy a wide a range of sporting experiences, whilst at the same time making the most of opportunities to excel. We also support our students in sports they pursue outside school, with many going on to represent their counties, regions, and, in some cases, their country.

To discover more about opportunities at King’s Ely, please visit

Ely Markets at Christmas

There’s a lot happening at Ely Markets this Christmas. There will be extra markets throughout December with vibrant seasonal flavours and innovative new ideas. Shop for the best local produce and gifts, and get in the festive mood with live music and street food.

First up are the Festive Lates, which take place on the first three Wednesdays in December. Come along from 4-8:30pm to enjoy delicious street food, live music and to discover unique gifts from local artisans and producers.

“Our Festive Lates are a wonderful way to kick off Christmas,” says Julia Davis of Ely Markets. “This is your chance to take a breather from the hectic festive season. Our special late-night markets have gifts you won’t find in the big stores, plus delicious street food and live music. Sip some mulled wine under the twinkly lights in the Market Place and get in the mood for Christmas!”

In the week before Christmas Day, Ely Markets will be hosting extra daytime events. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday there will be mini-markets selling festive food, gifts and flowers. This is followed by the Charter Market on Thursday 20TH and a special extra Christmas market on Friday 21 December.  At the weekend, the Farmers’ Market and the regular Saturday Craft, Food & Vintage Market will be bigger than ever. Sunday’s market is the perfect time to finish your last-minute shopping.

“Our week of festive markets is very special” says Julia Davis. “It’s our chance to show you what we do best: great quality produce and gifts at the best prices. We’ll have everything from local meat, vegetables and fruit to slippers, hats and handbags. You can park for free and come home with loads of fresh produce, thoughtful gifts and a wreath for your front door. Don’t forget to #BringYourOwn bags!”

All the dates you need:

Ely Festive Lates: Wednesday 5, 12, 19 December, 4-8:30pm

Vegan Christmas Fair: Sunday 16 December, 10am-4pm

Christmas Mini Markets: Monday 17, Tuesday 18, Wednesday 19 December, 10am-3pm

Last Charter Market before Christmas: Thursday 20 December, 8.30am-3.30pm

Special Christmas Market: Friday 21 December, 8.30am-3.30pm

Farmers Market and Craft, Food & Vintage Market: Saturday 22 December, 8.30am-3.30pm

Last market before Christmas: Sunday 23 December, 10am-4pm

Press release from Ely Markets


King’s Ely community remembers the fallen

Students, staff, families, Old Eleans and friends of King’s Ely came together in Ely Cathedral to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Hundreds of people gathered inside the cathedral on November 9th for the school’s Act of Remembrance – a moving service of silence, hymns, prayers and readings. The Chapel Choir sang the Anthem at the service, in which the school remembered 99 Old Eleans (former King’s Ely students) and former choristers who died in 20th Century conflicts. Their names were read out by the Heads of School, Felix Hawes and Maria Campbell, and two School Prefects, Tristan Harding and Alexander Layfield.

The Heads of Wilkinson, Osmond, School and Hereward houses also read out short biographies of four Old Eleans, William Beaumont Burns (1898-1901), Arthur Elsdale Boultbee (1897-1917), Roland George Ingle (1886-1916) and Harold Alfred Ivatt (1893-1918), whose surnames originally took the names of the four houses within King’s Ely Senior. Each Head of House received a framed photograph to display in their House as a reminder of their time at King’s Ely and the sacrifices they made for their country. Four chairs with old school scarves represented each Old Elean. This year, King’s Ely was awarded a bursary from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund towards some Tommy figures which were displayed throughout the seating in the cathedral.

As ever, one of the most touching moments of the service was when poppies fell from the cathedral’s Octagon during the two minute silence. After the service, Heads of Houses across the whole of King’s Ely were joined by senior management, governors and guests to lay wreaths and poppy crosses at the school’s War Memorial.

In the afternoon, senior citizens were invited to an Afternoon Tea Party at the Old Palace as part of the school’s centenary commemorations. It was wonderful to welcome so many people along to enjoy refreshments prepared by the school’s catering team and King’s Ely Junior and Senior students loved chatting with those in attendance. King’s Ely’s Clerk of Works, Fred Duffield and his son, Owen, provided two wartime vehicles that they have lovingly restored.

Press release from King’s Ely 





Creative Industries Event at Witchford Village College

A group of over sixty Year 8 pupils had an inspiring day on Wednesday when representatives from Creating the Future project visited the College. The aim of the project is to build effective careers education, information, advice and guidance on pathways to the creative industries. This sector is a fast-growing part of the UK economy and more needs to take place to ensure that students can access these careers and are encouraged to do so.

Students were challenged to design an Instagram post for a pizza advert with hashtags and then pitched their ideas to the representatives and each other. As a second exercise, groups were tasked to create a campaign for a 30-day challenge aimed at their age group to inspire wellbeing and health. They had to include an idea for an App, an advertising campaign, logo and strap line and then sell it to their audience.

Students were split into ten groups and had to work collaboratively with input from everyone in the group to formulate ideas. Great resilience was shown when students had to stand up and present to each other, each taking a role in the process. The professionals that worked with them during the day commented about how engaged they were with the process and the breadth of ideas that were being talked about; some they had not seen before.

Staff from the College gave students examples of the career paths into creative work that some of our ex-pupils have successfully taken. Creating the Future is a partnership project with Festival Bridge working with the Arts Council to connect young people with art and culture. We are very grateful to the representatives from the project, they are very inspiring people with interesting experiences to share about their work within the creative industries.

Working with Creating the Future continues into next year when twenty Year 9 students will undertake a two-day visit to a creative business and a Higher Education provider to work shadow and interview industry professionals.

Press release from Witchford Village College 


Ely Wildlife Watch Seeks Volunteer Leaders

Ely Wildlife Watch is looking for volunteers who would like to register as Leaders to help deliver fun and enjoyable monthly wildlife sessions to children.

Wildlife Watch is the junior branch of the Wildlife Trust and the UK’s leading environmental action club for kids. It encourages 5-11 year olds to have an interest in wildlife, and the world around them, through fun activities on environmental and natural history topics such as practical conservation activities, wildlife themed arts and crafts, insect surveys, pond dipping and night walks.

Jo Evans, Leader at Ely Wildlife Watch said: “Watch Leading is a very rewarding role. We now have an urgent need for leaders to help run the group as Clive and Helen, Ely Wildlife Watch’s long-standing leaders, are now stepping down for retirement. You don’t need to be an expert in wildlife, just enthusiastic, concerned about the environment and enjoy working with children and young people.”

Ely Wildlife Watch takes place for two hours on the second Saturday of each month and you’ll receive training and support from The Wildlife Trust. If you’d like to find out more about becoming a leader for Ely Wildlife Watch then contact Jo Evans on 07801226831 or email

Press release from Ely Wildlife Watch 

You Can Bin It Your Way

East Cambridgeshire District Council and East Cambs Street Scene are supporting an initiative aimed at cleaning and keeping the streets of the district clean.

Working alongside the Chewing Gum Action Group, East Cambridgeshire District Council will be delivering the ‘Bin It Your Way’ campaign with the East Cambs Street Scene team clearing chewing gum from the streets of the district.

The Chewing Gum Action Group was first launched in 2003 responding to the need to change behaviour and reduce littered gum. The ‘Bin It Your Way’ campaign has been delivered successfully in the UK since 2013.

The East Cambs Street Scene team will be using a street cleansing vehicle to aid their efforts of clearing gum off the streets. There will also be an active social media campaign on the East Cambridgeshire District Council’s Facebook and Twitter pages as well as supporting content from their recycling hero, Michael Recycle.

The service delivery champion for waste services in East Cambridgeshire, Councillor Julia Huffer, said “I am thrilled that East Cambs is supporting such a vital campaign. Looking after the district and keeping the streets clean is very important and something everyone should think about.

“I would urge residents to get on board with the campaign to help keep our district’s streets clean and free from litter and chewing gum.”

To keep an eye on the campaign as it progresses, visit the East Cambridgeshire District Council’s Twitter page:

To find out more about the Chewing Gum Action Group’s ‘Bin It Your Way’ initiative, visit their website:

Press release from East Cambridgeshire District Council 

Photo credit: Prominent, Left to right: Martin Norman, Nick Wyatt, Councillor Julia Huffer and James Khan

Remembrance Service at Witchford Village College

Witchford Village College was built on the site of a former RAF airfield, which was used during the Second World War. Just before Armistice Day we hold a Remembrance Ceremony to honour the lives lost during the First and Second World Wars and subsequent conflicts. We also honour those who flew from RAF Witchford and of those the ten men who laid down their lives for our Country.

All staff and students attended the service and we were very pleased to welcome a large number of visitors from the local community including Councillor Peter Cresswell, Chairman of East Cambs District Council. We were very fortunate to have Mr David Martin, Chairman of the City of Ely Royal British Legion, attend with the RBL flag and Mrs Laurine Green, from the City of Ely Military Band, who played The Last Post on her bugle after two minutes silence. Many students had attended College in their military, scouting and guiding uniforms to pay their respects.

Students Maddox Knight, Mia Butterworth, Stephanie Faulkner, Matthew Willson and Abi Easey confidently contributed with their readings of some war poems and Grace Robinson gave a reading she had written. The student leaders laid wreaths at our memorial wall and Thomas King planted some poppy seeds.

Tribute was paid to ex-students and parents who have been in, or are currently in our Country’s armed forces, and who might soon be placed in harm’s way in defence of our Country, our way of life and the freedoms we all enjoy. At the end of the Service, visitors were able to stay for authentic wartime refreshments made by our students. They were treated to carrot scones, spam sandwiches, cheese and potato dumplings and eggless sponge amongst other delights.

It was lovely to see Mrs Harrison and pupil representatives from Rackham school at the service. Mrs Harrison said that it was ‘a poignant and respectively observed service’. It was the College’s first Remembrance Ceremony under the leadership of Principal Mr Daniel Baxby and all students did themselves proud. It is very fitting that three of our new student houses (Lancaster, Stirling and Wellington) are named after aircraft that flew from RAF Witchford.

Press release from Witchford Village College

Exam Breakfasts from Waitrose at Witchford Village College

Year 11 students at Witchford Village College were given breakfast by Waitrose, Ely prior to their first GCSE mock exam today. Debbie Walker, Head of Community Liaison at Waitrose arrived laden with boxes of food donated by the store. Waitrose have generously backed the College’s initiative and will be supplying healthy breakfasts for the two-week period of mock exams and the major GCSE exams in May and June.

The emphasis was on healthy eating and students were able to enjoy fruit, yogurts, low-sugar fruit juices, low-fat croissants and cereal bars. It also gave them a chance to sit, try to relax and gather their thoughts before going into their English Language exam.

Vice-Principal, and leader of the initiative, Mr Paul Baynes said, ‘We are very grateful to Waitrose for supporting our Year 11 students. Having breakfast is vital to being able to perform well in exams and the support from Waitrose  ensures that all students have the opportunity to have a nutritious breakfast. We look forward to working with them throughout the year especially in the summer when the real examinations take place’

Press release from Witchford Village College 

Ely Markets Wins Market Team of The Year 2018

Ely Markets has come top out of more than fifty entries as Market Team of the Year 2018. The award was presented by the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA).

“Out of all the entries, the Ely Markets team made an instant impression on the judges,” says Graham Wilson, Chief Executive of NABMA. “We were impressed with the contribution the team has made in providing such a diverse and quality market with strong links to the local community.”

The Ely Markets team was presented with the award by Councillor Geraldine Carter, the NABMA President, at a ceremony at East Cambridgeshire District Council. Graham Wilson, Chief Executive of NABMA, also attended the event along with John Hill, Chief Executive of East Cambridgeshire District Council and Councillor Charles Roberts, Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council.

“The hard work that goes on behind the scenes of a market is often undervalued,” says Geraldine Carter, the President of NABMA. “Giving this award to a team who is making a big difference brings me great pleasure.”

The judges praised Ely Markets’ unique combination of tradition and innovation. They were particularly impressed with the time taken by team members Julia Davis, Lisa Quin and Bill Wayman to support and mentor new stallholders, such as local craftspeople, artisan food makers and international street food traders. The mini-markets, late-night events and their ongoing commitment to plastic-free shopping were also commended.

“We’re thrilled to have received this award from NABMA,” says Julia Davis of Ely Markets. “Our diverse range of traders and our commitment to sustainability and innovation make our market unique. We’re proud of our 800 years of history and we’re excited about the future.”

Press release from Ely Markets 


Ely Tri Club Duathlon 2019

Ely Tri Club are proud to announce they are taking over the running of the popular Ely Duathlon (formerly run by Monster Racing) on 10th March 2019.

Paul and Liz Heselwood, the former owners of Monster Racing set up this enormously popular local event 7 years ago and have kindly gifted this, and the Runfest in September, to Ely Tri Club to help develop the club and the services it can bring to the local community.

The duathlon format is 5km run – 25km bike – 5km run; starting and ending at Witchford village College.

The event is open to anyone over 18 and all ability levels; its ideal as a first duathlon or as a challenge for more experienced duathletes and triathletes.

Anyone interested in taking part can either contact Ely Tri Club on Facebook or via

Entries are being taken now at

Anyone looking to do any of the other Monster Racing events should go to for more information.

Press release from Ely Tri Club 

Album Art Fundraising Exhibition at Babylon ARTS

Calling all artists! Babylon ARTS in Ely are looking for entries from professional, amateur and first-time artists for their charity Album ART fundraising exhibition. There’s an impressive £100 Prize for Best in Show up for grabs. You can find all the details and an entry form online but you need to get your entries in by Monday 17 December.

Florence Tong, Head of Project Delivery at Babylon ARTS who is organising the exhibition said ‘Our theme is Album Art and we’re inviting you to create an image of 30cm x 30cm to display in the Babylon Gallery. You could be inspired by a particular band or track, a homage to an existing album cover, or a new creation that you think would be great on a vinyl sleeve. It could be a drawing, print, painting, photograph, digital art, collage or mixed media, as long as it’s 2 dimensional. We are looking for a range of styles and techniques, as well as work from all ages and experience levels!’

To inspire your creation you could listen to some music, look at the artwork of your favourite musicians or come and visit the Storm Thorgerson exhibition which is on display at Babylon Gallery on Ely’s Waterside from 17 November – 22 December 2018.

For a downloadable form visit the website or pop into the gallery and pick one up.

Press release from Babylon ARTS

The Secret Garden

During the early part of last year I was asked to go along to a ‘wild’ secret garden area in Littleport and to give my views re. Disabled accessibility and how best this could be put into place.
I was given the location as the end of Limes Close, across the car park. A place that I had never been to.

When I arrived, I found a good size area, which I never knew even existed. A hidden, rambling, thorny and overgrown piece of land. What struck me was how quiet it was. You felt away from the hustle and bustle of life and could easily see, hear and feel the nature around which was bursting from within. It truly felt to me like a secret garden.

Deborah Curtis Watson and others had the vision. That through campaigning, support from Littleport Parish Council, East Cambridge District Council, Sanctuary housing, Littleport red lions, Littleport Time bank, The Port Youth Club and the community. There was a chance that this once neglected area could be brought back to life again. To be accessible to all.
The garden was named ‘Peacocks Meadow’.

Days were set aside, rota’s drawn. Heavy machinery was brought in to do the initial clearing work.
Volunteers appeared and tirelessly cleared the ground of brambles, freed ditches and levelled areas which needed to be for easy pedestrian access. The local ‘Lions’ had some members come from as far afield as Great Yarmouth. Volunteers supplied tea and cake.

Wild flower seeds were bought, to be germinated over the winter and then sown. All involved were very keen to keep the wildlife which had made it their home and to encourage more. This has now been done, through hedgehog, reptile, frog and toad, wildlife houses and specialised planting etc. Through the tireless work of the garden committee. Peacocks Garden was selected to be one of 50 community growing spaces to be awarded a ‘Grow Wild Seed Pack’. A National outreach scheme scheme run by Royal Botanic gardens, Kew London.

The garden is now a haven for wildlife, a relaxing quiet area for the community to enjoy. People have enjoyed a variety of events which include an Easter egg hunt and bug hunting. More events are being planned.

As with any garden, particularly one of this size. The garden requires constant pruning, cutting back, pathways maintained etc.
Recently another ‘garden tidying’ day was held. The community came out and helped.
Littleport Timebank members were able if they wished to garden in exchange for credits.

Carol and Stuart from Fenland Spirit Services donated a mower to help in the garden. One resident, Ben who came to the garden day, explained that he loves the garden as it is accessible for his mobility scooter and that he likes to spend as much time there as he can.

The garden members regularly post updates on their Facebook page. Find these: Fb/Peacocksmeadow Also the event days and when they need additional help to maintain.

Like any community volunteer project, the more hands, the lighter the work will be. So please do volunteer your services as there is always something to do in the garden. The reward will be a satisfying time, fresh air and great fitness benefits.
Message the group and let them know when you can help. Even if you can do just an hour. It all helps.
A group gardening event is planned for November. So keep an eye out for that.

So the ‘Secret Garden’ may not be very secret anymore. But I for one, am glad it now isn’t!


Maria x

King’s Ely Acremont Nursery staff put their best feet forward for Alzheimer’s Society

Staff at King’s Ely Acremont Nursery have raised almost £1,500 for the Alzheimer’s Society by completing the charity’s Memory Walk in Cambridge.

Thousands of people put their best foot forward by taking part in the 7km event on October 14th, including nine members of the team at King’s Ely Acremont Nursery.

Despite treacherous rain on the day, the ‘Queens of King’s’ team – Michelle Smith, Kelly Langford, Lucy Wright, Kayleigh Darkens, Gemma Scarrow, Rachel Nabavian, Lizzy Haywood, Emily Shelsher and Lucy Hunt – donned their waterproofs and completed the walk before coming together for a big group hug over the finish line.

The Alzheimer’s Society is a charity close to the hearts of many members of the team, including Nursery Practitioner Lucy Hunt, whose father has been living with the disease for the last 19 years. Lucy’s mum, Yvonne Peacock, accompanied the team on the walk. Kelly’s grandmother, Michelle’s grandmother and Gemma’s grandfather have all sadly lost their battle with Alzheimer’s, making it a cause very close to their hearts too.

Lucy said: “Several members of our team have witnessed the devastating effect Alzheimer’s has on loved ones. We were keen to take part in the Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk to raise as much money as we could to fund research into the prevention, and hopefully one day a cure, so that other families don’t have to have the same heart-breaking experiences that we have.”

The team have so far raised more than £1,300 in sponsorship and are hoping to reach their £1,500 target. To sponsor them, simply text KEAN90 and the amount to 70070 or visit:

Press release from King’s Ely 


Robots at Witchford Village College

This year Witchford Village College will be competing in two major robotics competitions, the VEX Robotics Competition (where we have competed before), and the latest – the FIRST® Tech Challenge. On Wednesday 10th October the two new Witchford FIRST teams attended the launch event with other local schools at Chesterton Community College in Cambridge. At the event the students learned about the new 2018-2019 game; ‘Rover Ruckus’ and received an extensive kit of structural, electrical and software components.

The goal over the next months will be to construct a robot to complete the challenge. Both teams are already hard at work assigning roles within the team, planning strategy and exploring design possibilities. Deadlines are tight, the first contest being an unofficial ‘scrimmage’ in January against local schools. The competition culminates in a two- day competition at the Big Bang Fair on 15 & 16 March next year at the NEC. The Big Bang Fair is an event celebrating Science and Engineering in the UK and is attended by around 80,000 young people each year.

FIRST® Tech Challenge UK is a charity on a mission to transform the UK’s relationship with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) – reaching, inspiring, and engaging the next generation of science and technology leaders through the provision of accessible, mentor-based educational programmes and competitions grounded in robotics. These fantastic opportunities for our students are being run in conjunction with the WVC Spark programme and we are very proud of the students involved.

Press release from Witchford Village College

Higher Youth Tour Cambs launches with fun-filled workshops at King’s Ely

Manchester based indie pop band BrightLine visited King’s Ely to launch the eagerly-anticipated Higher Youth Tour Cambs.

The event on October 1st saw the band delivering workshops to students in Years 7 to 13 based on self-esteem from a Christian perspective.

The Higher Tour, which is supporting the work of the Message Trust, aims to raise a generation of culture-shifting disciples. Over the coming years, the initiative will be touring around the country delivering lessons in schools and sharing the good news about Jesus through concerts and large events.

The workshops at King’s Ely were sponsored by the Diocese of Ely, Scripture Union, Youth for Christ and supported by local Ely Churches.

BrightLine have been visiting schools all across the UK and beyond for the last few years, delivering lessons, assemblies and workshops to young people of all ages as well as gigging throughout the UK and Europe. BrightLine’s mission is to bring a message of hope and life to a hurting world.

King’s Ely was the first school to take part in the Cambridgeshire tour, which will culminate with the Higher Cambs 2018 Concert being held at Ely Cathedral on Saturday, October 6th at 7pm. For tickets or more information about the tour, go to:

To find out more about opportunities at King’s Ely, please visit:

King’s Ely Junior pupil Syrah completes Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

A KING’S Ely Junior pupil has raised funds and awareness for good causes by completing the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.

Syrah Simcock-Stow, 11, and her father, Edward, were among hundreds of people who took part in the quirky, annual fundraising event in Cambridge on September 30th.

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride is a global motorcycle fundraiser to raise awareness of prostate cancer and male suicide prevention. Open to all genders, the ride was founded in 2012 by Mark Hawwa in Sydney, Australia; inspired by a photo of Mad Men’s Don Draper on a classic bike in a fine suit.

The ride provides an outline of dress and behaviour, suggesting riders wear dapper clothing, silk vests, tweed suits and behave in an affable manner. Suggested motorcycles for the themed ride include café racers, bobbers, classics, modern classics, flat trackers, scramblers, old school choppers, brat styled, classic scooters and classic sidecars.

The event carries no entry fee and riders are encouraged to raise sponsorship money for prostate cancer research and male suicide prevention on behalf of charity partner, The Movember Foundation.

Around 120,000 people across the world supported the campaign this year, and in Cambridge 400 people took part, raising more than £38,000 – making it the 14th biggest ride in the world from 634 participating cities.

Head of King’s Ely Junior, Richard Whymark, said: “Syrah’s involvement with this exciting and fun-filled charity event was wonderful to celebrate at school. By raising the profiles of these two important issues amongst the school community, Syrah has played an important role in promoting engagement by others. We congratulate Syrah and her father on their success.”

Syrah and her father have raised almost £1,000 between them and can be sponsored by visiting:

To discover more about opportunities at King’s Ely, please visit:

Press release from King’s Ely


Cambridgeshire college puts students’ Future First

Former students from a Soham state college are being asked to go back to the classroom to inspire current students to career confidence and academic success.

The students past and present from Soham Village College in Sand Street have joined a programme run by the national education charity Future First which helps state schools and colleges develop ‘old school tie’ networks allowing them to harness the talents and experience of alumni to support the current generation.

The former students will return to volunteer at assemblies and workshops designed to motivate young people and broaden their jobs horizons so they are more likely to be able to achieve a career of their choice regardless of their background.

Soham Village College is one of a thousand state secondary schools and colleges across Britain which have worked with the education charity Future First. Future First’s vision is that every state school or college should be supported by a thriving, engaged alumni community that helps it to do more for its students. More than 226,000 former students nationwide have already signed up to stay connected with their old school. They’re motivating young people as career and education role models, mentors, work experience providers, governors and fundraisers.

Soham Village College wants to contact former students in established careers and recent leavers in further education, alumni who live nearby and those who have moved away.

Nick Oakhill, Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance Manager, said: ‘We signed up to Future First’s scheme straightaway. A network of past pupils with all their valuable experience will be vital in helping us to broaden current pupils’ jobs horizons and equip them for the world of work. We look forward to engaging with former students through this coming and future years.’

Matt Lent, Chief Executive Officer of Future First said, ‘Students cannot be what they cannot see. It is vital to open their eyes to opportunities beyond their own world and show them the range of jobs available. Alumni help schools do this by acting as relatable positive role models. If a student sees someone who has the same background has gone on to achieve success, they are far more likely to think they can too.’

Nick Oakhill is waiting to hear from former students on Former students can also register with Future First by clicking the ‘For former students’ link on the website

For further information about Future First, visit, contact Press Officer Sue Crabtree on or call one of the team on 0207 239 8933.

Picture caption:  From aspirational students to inspirational alumni – Year 11 leavers at Soham Village College 2018.

Press release from Future First

King’s Ely Acremont pupils have a blast at Ely Fire Station

There were smiles all round when children from King’s Ely Acremont visited Ely Fire Station.

Reception pupils took the short walk along Egremont Street to the station, where they were able to get up very close to one of the fire engines. Members of Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service were on hand to educate their young visitors about the importance of fire safety, to tell them more about the urgent nature of their jobs and of course show them some of their tools and equipment.

The visit on September 24th also saw the children being able to climb aboard the fire engine, and the highlight for most of them was having a go at blasting the water hose as high as they could! The trip was organised to tie in with the children’s topic for the term, All About Me.

Head of King’s Ely Acremont, Faye Fenton-Stone, said: “Learning should be much more than a classroom-based experience and I am pleased to see that our Reception children are making the most of exploring our community. On their return, the children were full of conversation and their excitement and observations fed their plans and engagement during some busy role play and sketching with pastels. Shortly after, the children composed a thank you note for the time the firefighters gave up explaining their job and touring the station. Well done children, for your manners and thoughtfulness!”

At King’s Ely Acremont, learning is an adventure. Small class sizes, well-qualified and caring staff and excellent teaching enable children from the age of one to reach their full potential. The dynamic and varied curriculum is supported by carefully planned trips, visits from experts and new and innovative technology.

To discover more about King’s Ely, please visit

Press release from King’s Ely 

Ely Tennis Club Championship: Finals Day

10is players and Ely Tennis club players produced another day of top quality tennis in Sunday’s Ely Tennis Club finals day of its 2018 Annual Club Championships.

More than eight hours of tennis saw six adult finals and six plate finals all being contested at the Ely Outdoor Sports Association.

First on court were the “Over 60’s mixed doubles”. Anne Hefferman paired with Stephen Watts battled over 2 hours against Patricia Gray and with Chris Heath to finally take the title (2/6 6/2 6/3)

The men’s doubles final was won by Sebastien Scaux and Tom Shackleton. Sebastien and Tom were the defending champions but were pushed to the limits by Julian Brooks and Tim Glossop. Sebastien and Tom retained their title in three sets (4/6 6/4 7/5) in a high quality and very entertaining match.

Sebastien Scaux and Tom Shackleton were back on court but this time on opposite sides of the net to play the men’s singles final. Head coach Sebastien overcame first-time finalist and doubles partner, Tom Shackleton, in straight sets (6/4 6/1).

The ladies singles final saw two first time contestants: Rebecca Tomkins and Georgia Shields. 10is Academy player Georgia Shields won through a nervous final (6/4 6/2) . This was the first time that 13-year-old Georgia had entered the senior championships.

The ladies’ doubles was won again by the defending champions Mary Finney and Sylvia Hansen. 10is coach Fiona Dyer partnered with Andrea Newman tried everything but the champions proved too much, winning in straight sets (6/1 6/2).

The mixed final saw Alisa Chirgadze and Tom Shackleton (playing his third final) beat Julian Brooks and Mary Finney (both of them playing their second final) in a close, entertaining battle, winning a Championship tie-break decider by the narrowest of margins in the second set before taking the title in the last set (3/6 7/6 (9/7) 6/3).

In the Plate tournaments they were victories for: Brenda Pearce and John Darby in the “Over 60’s mixed doubles”, Steve McLaughlin and Steven Gill in the “Men’s doubles”, Rebecca Sheldrick in the the “Ladies”,  10is coach Tim Beddoes in the “Men’s”, Cathy Kirby and Rebecca Sheldrick in the “Ladies doubles”, Sandrine Harvey and Paul Briggs in the “Mixed doubles”.

Tournament organiser Mel Henderson said: “What a great day of tennis we had at the 2018 Ely TC championship Finals.

Congratulations to all our finalists for giving us such an entertaining day.

Press release from 10is Academy 

Ely showed heart to beat Thetford away with a shortage of players.

The game started with both teams flying back and forth. Ely gained a penalty and opted to kick for the corner. The ball came out to Sam Benzie from the line-out and he scurried through the opposition defence to touch down for a converted try. The Tigers then lost players to injury nearing the end of the half and Thetford took advantage of this and touched down twice within minutes of each other. after Ely’s defence was splintered.

The second half was a nightmare start for Ely. Thetford kicked off and retained the ball, they shipped it wide from the breakdown and touched down for a converted try. Ely then settled, and the team began to knit, even after all the injuries. The ball came to the Ely backs and they decided to throw it wide. Luke Wileman held two of the opposition and offloaded to Joel Scott Paul who was brought down by the last defender. Lory Martin was there to receive the pop off the floor and passed it to man of the match Luke Cornwell who sprinted over the line for a converted try. Cornwell was at it again when he got his brace soon after, he touched down in the corner from the back fo a ruck. The Tigers almost crossed again when Jake Alsop stepped inside the defence but Ely knocked-on just before the line. Moments later Thetford were penalised for rucking dangerously. The Tigers kicked for the corner and mauled it forward, the oppositions defence was solid until Jacob Muncey bulldozed his way over in the corner for an unconverted try. The Tigers finished Thetford off when they kicked-off from the restart. The ball didn’t go ten metres and John Dibb pounced on the ball, fly-hacking it through. He was able to regather the ball and was brought down, Grant Storey was in support and offloaded again to Dibb, it bounced off his knee and he dropped on the ball over the line for a converted try.  Final score – 33-19

Press release from Ely Tigers 

Photo credit Thetford Rugby Club 

Talented King’s Ely riders qualify for NSEA Championships

King’s Ely’s Equestrian Team was on top form at the National Schools Equestrian Association’s (NSEA) Arena Eventing Qualifiers.

Two of King’s Ely’s teams and three of the school’s individual riders qualified for the National Championships at the qualifiers, which were held at Forest Edge Arena in Swaffham, Norfolk.

The 90cms team of Adele Shaw, Ellie Grimsey and Emily Gredley won their class and qualified for the National Championships. Adele also qualified as an individual rider after winning the class.

 The 1m team of Emily Gredley, Katie Cameron and Eleanor Fairey won their class and qualified. Katie Cameron also qualified as an individual rider after winning the class.

In the 1m 10cms class, Katie and Eleanor competed as individual riders. Katie came first and Eleanor came second, resulting in them both qualifying for the National Championships in that class too.

The girls also qualified for the Championship Plate as Ellie secured fourth place in the 80cms class, Emily came fifth in the 90cms class and the 1m class, and Eleanor secured sixth place in the 1m class.

Manager of the King’s Ely Equestrian Team, Sue Cameron, said: “It was an extremely successful day for the Equestrian Team in what was the school’s first equestrian event of the season. The students were all thrilled with their results and it looks like they have another exciting season ahead of them.”

To discover more about the King’s Ely Equestrian Team and opportunities at King’s Ely, please visit

Press release from King’s Ely 

Soham Pumpkin Fair this Weekend

Soham Pumpkin Fair has been held on the last Saturday in September since 1975 and over the years has provided much needed funding for many local charities and organisations. It is a chance to show off some of the most impressive home produce, but there is much more to the Fair than pumpkins and other vegetables!

Our theme for 2018 is ‘Garden of Gold’. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and gardens of Gold symbolise the strength of children with cancer – they start life like tiny seeds which grow into beautiful flowers. Some of them go on to bloom every year, while others are destined to bloom for only a short time. When you look at these flowers, remember the children and help us to raise awareness so that more of them can go on to bloom every year.

As usual, there will be lots of competitions and displays including arena events performed by local schools and groups, including Ferret Racing, Kuk Sool Won (Korean Martial Arts) and Ely Irish Dancing.

Also on show: Chris’s Animal Encounters, Zorbs, vintage vehicles; bygones; charity and food stalls; craft and story-telling tents; a fun fair and of course a wide range of produce.

Our main beneficiaries are the three primary schools in Soham: The Weatheralls, St. Andrews and The Shade, who have all requested funding for outdoor equipment.  We will also be donating some money to our local childhood cancer charity: The Liam Fairhurst Foundation.

All entries for competitions need to be in between 9.30-11.30am. The Fair will be opened to the public at 1.30pm by the Fairhurst family, and the fancy dress competitions top an afternoon of arena displays with the Prize-giving and Raffle completing the afternoon at approx. 4.30pm

Please go to our website or Facebook for more information:

Press release from Soham Pumpkin Fair Organisers 


King’s Ely’s Rebecca selected for Under 18’s National Hockey squad

King’s Ely student Rebecca Daniel has another string to add to her bow of sporting successes.

The talented Sixth Form student, 17, represented the Under 18’s National Hockey squad earlier this month and participated in a two-day training camp at the Lilleshall National Sports and Conferencing Centre.

Rebecca, who lives near Newmarket, was selected following her performances for the Saxon Tigers Under 17s team at the Futures Cup and the England Reds team at the UK School Games.

At the Futures Cup, Rebecca put in some fine displays in their matches against Mercian Lynx, Pennine Pumas and the Celtic Jaguars, with a resounding 9-1 victory over the latter side.

At the School Games, the England Reds won Silver. In their matches, they drew 2-2 with England Whites, lost 4-0 against Ulster, defeated England Blues 5-1 and in the Silver medal match, they defeated Scotland 3-0 with Rebecca scoring the opening goal.

The School Games, supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England and delivered by the Youth Sport Trust, was a major multi-sport event for the most talented young athletes from across the UK. More than 1,400 young sportsmen and women competed across 11 sports at Loughborough University, including Athletics, Cricket, Cycling, Canoeing, Netball, Rowing and more.

Head of Girls’ Games at King’s Ely Senior, Chanre Bond, said: “We are so proud of Rebecca’s latest Hockey success and wish her all the best for what promises to be a very busy and exciting season.”

As far as Rebecca’s sporting success is concerned, accolades include National Prep School Champion 800m (Years 7 and 8), Cambridgeshire Schools Cross Country Champion twice, Suffolk Cross Country Champion (three times qualifying her for the mini marathon), Anglian Cross Country Champion, English Schools Cross Country Championship (19th in a field of 350 and despite competing a year early!) and she plays National League Hockey for Cambridge City.

To find out more about opportunities at King’s Ely, please visit

Press release from King’s Ely 


Holst’s The Planets Suite: 100 Years To The Day

Ely Cathedral to host centenary celebration of one of the UK’s best-loved musical works exactly 100 years to the day after the first performance.

One hundred years to the day after its first performance, Gustav Holst’s magnificent Planets Suite will ring out in Ely Cathedral, on Saturday 29th September 2018, when Ely Sinfonia takes to the stage under the baton of its conductor Steve Bingham.  Right from the moment of its world première, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult in the Queen’s Hall, London, The Planets has been Holst’s most popular, influential, widely performed and frequently recorded of all his works, with Jupiter and Mars among some of the most recognised of all English music.

Also on the programme is Holst’s first major orchestral work, his Cotswolds Symphony, described by Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall as “a superb joyful piece with hints of greatness to come.”

The concert starts, fittingly, with the world première of a piece by a modern, local composer. Phil Toms’ Great War Overture will paint a picture of life in the trenches that will echo down the past hundred years:  fitting tribute in the wonderful surroundings of Ely Cathedral.

“We are very privileged to be playing one of the most loved of all British works on the precise day of its centenary,” says the orchestra’s conductor and artistic director, Steve Bingham.  “From the moment of its first performance in the Queen’s Hall, London, on 29th September 1918, the British people took Holst’s The Planets to their hearts.  Its melodies feature in music ranging from the scores of films such as Wallace and Grommit and The Lord of the Rings to the hymn “I Vow to Thee My Country”, played at both the wedding and the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the funeral of Baroness Thatcher, as well as many festivals of remembrance.”

“We are also thrilled, 100 years after the end of World War I, to be performing the world première of the Great War Overture by my great friend, local East Anglian composer Phil Toms.  This is going to be a historical and memorable evening.”

Tickets are available from Ely Cathedral Box Office and cost £25, £20 or £15 (reserved) or £8.00 (unreserved); concessions are £15 in the £20 seats.  They can be obtained by calling 01353 660349 or emailing, or by booking online from

To find out more about Ely Sinfonia, visit  To ask about joining, call 01353 721007 or email


New staff members welcomed onto King’s Ely leadership team

King’s Ely has welcomed several new members of staff this September, including four new additions to positions of leadership.

Jonathan Shaw is the new Head of King’s Ely Senior. Born in Staffordshire, Jonathan is a History graduate of Nottingham University with an MA in Leadership from the Institute of Education in London. He has worked in a number of independent day and boarding schools, both in the UK and in Kenya, and most recently as Vice Principal of Elizabeth College in Guernsey. Jonathan has moved to Ely with his wife, Katherine, and two children.

New Head of King’s Ely Acremont, where the youngest pupils at King’s Ely are educated, is Faye Fenton-Stone. Born in Kent, Faye is a graduate of University College London and the Institute of Education. Faye, who is married with two children, has come to King’s Ely from the post of Deputy Head of the Pre-Prep of King’s College School in Cambridge. She has both Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and Key Stage 1 experience.

Ben Pennington has joined the school as Deputy Head of King’s Ely Senior, moving south from Ampleforth College in York, where he was Deputy Head of Middle School and Housemaster of St Dunstan’s. Born in Worcester, Ben attended Bristol University before completing a PGCE at Oriel College, Oxford. He has taught in Sydney, London and more recently in Sherborne, Dorset. He served for five years in the British Army with the Irish Guards and has played professional rugby for Leicester and Bristol. Ben has moved to Ely with his wife and two children.

The fourth leadership post has been taken up by Celia Etchegoyen, who joined the King’s Ely family earlier this year as Interim Head of King’s Ely Acremont. Celia has now moved to the newly created post of Director of Outreach, and will be looking to extend and develop the school’s partnership work.

Principal of King’s Ely, Sue Freestone, said: “We are fortunate to have assembled a group of impressive individuals who have gelled exceptionally well with each other and the existing team. I sense the combined effect of the King’s Ely synergy is about to move up several gears.”

To find out more about opportunities at King’s Ely, please visit

Press release from King’s Ely


Sunday Fun Day at Isle of Pets

Yesterday saw Isle of Pets hold an awesome fun day for pet lovers in Ely.

Local groups were there including Therapy Dogs Nationwide and the K9 Project provided refreshments with hot dogs and cookies for a donation.

Sian Ryan and Calum from Developing Dogs and Mel Thomason’s Rewarding Paws both gave demonstrations where you could join in with your dog and K9 Sports Agility were in action as well.

There was even a photo shoot for you to get your pet sat perfectly in front of the camera and if you fancied a bounce around there was bouncy castle fun, Mr Softee ice cream and games for kids. Isle Vets resident Shetland pony Thunder Pants was there for his adoring fans!

Mayor of Ely, Mike Rouse came along to support the event as well.

Jarl Ford from Isle of Pets said “We’re so pleased at how the day went. It was brilliant to share with our customers and visitors. All of the wonderful trainers who delivered the sessions are customers of ours so it was great to be on the other side of the fence and to see them doing what they do! We are very lucky in Ely to have so many good pet professionals around us. Finally we are delighted with how the business has developed in less than two years and equally excited with our plans for the years ahead.”

1000 Origami Cranes Exhibition

In October a fundraising exhibition to raise awareness of World Mental Health Day, and a celebration of a full recovery story from Postnatal Depression, will be in Ely.

Ely resident and charity worker, Laura Pearson-Clark will be holding a two day fundraising exhibition on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 October at Chequer Studio, in the heart of the city centre.

After the birth of her daughter in 2014, Laura battled with postnatal depression for the first two years of her daughter’s life and was referred to an Art Therapist in 2016. The 12 week art therapy course provided by the NHS was a turning point and marked the beginning of a full recovery journey:

Laura said: “It was in my penultimate art therapy session that I discussed an idea I had for a new art piece. After visiting Newhall College’s Japan Day, I read up about the Japanese legend that if you make 1000 paper origami cranes you will receive eternal good luck. The cranes are also known for symbolising resilience and well-being. I wrote to patient liaison services and gained permission and full access to copies of my patient notes to make my cranes and a year later I had a spare room full of them!”

On the exhibition days you’ll be able to see all 1000 cranes hanging, learn the art of ‘Mindfoldness’ and how to make an origami crane yourself. You’ll also be able to find further information about all the charities and organisations who provided support and ways you can get involved in the amazing work they do.

There will also be a ‘name a crane’ fundraising game to help Laura reach her fundraising target of £1000 to support all the great work of the Friends of St John’s School Ely.

Further information can be found in the events section on the Chequer Studio Facebook page:

1000 Origami Cranes Exhibition, Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 October, 10.30am-4pm, Chequer Studio, 1a Chequer Lane, Ely, CB7 4LN.


Ely Cathedral roses are a welcome addition to King’s Ely gardens

King’s Ely has taken delivery of three stunning Ely Cathedral roses.

The Dean of Ely, Mark Bonney, visited the school to present Principal, Sue Freestone, with the roses, which are a welcome addition to the gardens of the Old Palace and a reminder of the close links between the cathedral and King’s Ely.

The Ely Cathedral rose has been produced by East Anglian rose growers, Peter Beales Roses, who are specialist propagators of new blooms and have won many prestigious awards, including 24 Gold Medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, where the rose was officially unveiled by celebrity garden designer, Diarmuid Gavin.

Mr Bonney said: “We had our inspiration for an Ely Cathedral rose from our highly successful flower festival in 2013, and were very excited to have an opportunity to work with Peter Beales Roses. The rose they have cultivated for the cathedral produces a classic and elegant, yet vibrant flower, and fulfills all that we hoped for.”  

Ely Cathedral roses can be purchased from the cathedral gift shop, or by visiting

Press release form King’s Ely

New Heads of School, Deputy Heads, Prefects and Heads of Houses appointed

Felix Hawes and Maria Campbell have been formally installed as King’s Ely’s new Heads of School.

Over a thousand people gathered inside Ely Cathedral on September 3rd for the school’s Beginning of Year Service, which includes the robing of incoming Heads of School in their prefects’ gowns. The new Heads of School then robe the Deputy Heads of School, after which all then assist in robing the other Prefects.

Speaking about her headship, Maria, 17, who has been at King’s Ely since joining King’s Ely Junior in Year 5, said: “I feel very lucky to have been selected to be Head of School out of such a strong group of candidates. Although I am a bit nervous about some of the speeches, I am very much looking forward to being at the head of such a strong community.”

Felix, 17, has been at King’s Ely since joining Reception at King’s Ely Acremont. He said: “I feel incredibly honoured to have been made Head of School. King’s Ely is so much of a community that to call it a large family is fitting, and to be a leading figure in this family is a huge privilege for me. The school has served me well, and now I am serving it too.”

This year’s Deputy Heads of School are Tristan Harding, Alex Layfield, Ashley Lian and Jenna Richards.

School Prefect status has been awarded to John-Paul Gilbey, Ben Clubb, Boris Choi, Sam Freeze, Tom Stiff, Phoebe Plumb, Arshdeep Hayer, Benita Bausbacher, Rebecca Keene, Honor Whitehead, Stephanie Segall and Rebecca Daniel.

The Beginning of Year Service also sees Heads of Houses for both King’s Ely Junior and King’s Ely Senior being welcomed into their posts.

In King’s Ely Junior, Queen Emma is being headed up by Lauren Booth and Thomas Alderton; Queen Philippa is being led by Kendle Putter and Rufus Hillier; Saunders is being headed up by Francesca Stevens and James MacGillivray; Goodwin is being led by Sydney Smith and Thomas Jackson; Priory is being headed up by Ellie Grimsey and Midu Gurung; and Choir is being led by James Barbrook.

In King’s Ely Senior, Huiru (Ashley) Lian is Head of House for Hill; Robert Dunlop-Brown for Hereward; Felix Hawes and Michael Poole for Osmond; Samuel Freeze and Ethan Morley for Wilkinson; John-Paul Gilbey for School; Rebecca Daniel and Phoebe Plumb for Torfrida; Eleanor Scott for Etheldreda; and Lucy Darby and Anna Pearce for Withburga.

To find out more about opportunities at King’s Ely, please visit

Press release from King’s Ely 


Skills Fair Returns to Ely Cathedral For Fifth Year

Back by popular demand, East Cambs Careers & Skills Fair is returning to Ely Cathedral on Tuesday 9th October.

Now in its fifth year, the fair has continued to grow and draw attention from local schools and businesses alike. Last year’s event saw 800 students from schools and colleges throughout the district visit and for the first time this year, primary school children will be attending the fair.

The 2018 event will see East Cambridgeshire District Council launch a brand-new Apprenticeship Hub at the event which is a website designed to connect local employers, apprentices and training providers.

Emma Grima, Commercial Director at East Cambridgeshire District Council said: “Events like this are really useful for young people who are keen to explore the many different avenues people take after school. The event will enable students to learn more about the working world as well as allow them to demonstrate their networking skills in a professional capacity.”

Nikki Pritchett, who is a Work-related Learning Coordinator from Ely College, said: “It has been great to see how useful the students have found this day and the feedback we’ve had from them has been really positive. Fairs like this really help to open their eyes to the opportunities available to them and help students to consider paths they might not have considered before.”

The fair is sponsored by The Network for East Anglian Collaborative Outreach, Thorlabs, West Suffolk College, Enterprise East Cambridgeshire, The Employability Partnership, Shearline Precision Engineering Ltd and Tesco, who will also be exhibiting.

Speaking about last year’s event, Rebecca Sussex, Business and Education Development Manager from the Skills Service said “We are extremely pleased that the skills fair continues to be so well supported. The students really enjoyed the day and we hope that it’s helped to guide them towards a fulfilling future careers.”

If your business would like to sponsor an aspect of the Careers & Skills Fair contact Rebecca Findley, Marketing Officer at Enterprise East Cambridgeshire on

Press release from East Cambridgeshire District Council

Girls’ and Women’s Rugby at Ely Tigers Rugby Club

Written by: Rebecca Case-Upton and Charlotte Pindar 

Last season Ely Tigers rugby club started a girls’ section- the Ely Tigresses. We want this to go from strength to strength each year. The new season is starting, come and join us!

We want to make sure the opportunity to play rugby locally is available to girls and women in Ely and the surrounding area.  The women’s professional game has seen enormous success at both Premier 15’s level and internationally. As a consequence of this, women’s and girls’ rugby have become the fastest growing team sports in recent years!  Since 2013 the number of women and girls enjoying contact rugby in England has increased by over 10,000.  At the time of the 1991 Women’s Rugby World Cup there were around 35 English clubs with women’s sides, compared with over 300 rugby clubs hosting women’s and girls’ teams in 2017. Our long term goal is to have a thriving, sustainable and competitive women’s section at Ely RUFC. 

The Ely Tigresses train every Tuesday from 6.30-8.00pm and cater for girls aged 11 to 18. All the girls need to bring is themselves (and any friends who want to have a go too), a water bottle, warm layers, studded boots, a hair tie and a fitted gum shield.

Our coaching team consists of Simon Cross, Simon Edwards and Charlotte Pindar. As the girls’ section grows, we are recruiting for new volunteer coaches to add to our team. So if you are reading this and are an experienced coach, looking for a new challenge and to work with a burgeoning girls’ section, please contact our Girls’ Chairwoman Charlotte or our Director of Rugby, Adrian Storey. 

We had a brilliant turnout from our very first session last season and regularly saw 25+ girls from schools all over Cambridgeshire. This season we want to expand upon our excellent start and to have even greater numbers of players enjoying rugby. We have played 3 fixtures so far in partnership with Diss RUFC. We’d love to build on that and give our Tigresses more chances to represent their club.

Rugby is for everyone and teaches you so many important values.

One of the biggest misconceptions about rugby is that one has to be a hulking, great big person, who’s hugely athletic and very aggressive. This is definitely not so! Regardless of your size, shape, height, fitness and previous experience or (lack thereof), rugby is a game for everyone. If

you’re small but agile and speedy, you could zip past the defenders. If you’re a bit bigger and have sometimes felt uncomfortable in your skin, rugby could be the key to finding confidence in yourself and unlocking hidden abilities. We are one team. We all add value. 

Central to the culture of rugby is that we have a set of core values: Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship (or TREDS for short). We try to embody these in all that we do as a club, as a committee, as coaches and as volunteers; and we expect the same of our players, parents, supporters and spectators. 

Parents and players often say that they’re anxious about the contact aspect of the game. We understand these concerns but want to reassure you that we take the utmost care to ensure our players are coached fully in how to safely tackle and how to be tackled. We take their safety very seriously. If you have any questions at all though, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our contact information can be found below or on the Ely Tigers website.

There’s also so much more to the game of rugby than the tackle! We do a lot of work on the principles of play- Possession, Going Forward, Support, Continuity and Pressure. It stands to reason that if you want to maintain possession of the ball, to carry on going forward, to apply pressure, to keep up continuity and to support your teammates; you need to communicate, to run into space, to keep the ball alive, to offload the ball rather than running into contact and to follow that pass to support the ball carrier! We saw our players coming on leaps and bounds in their knowledge, technical understanding, fitness, tactical and physical ability last season, as a direct result of this focus. We look forward to seeing all the progress our girls will make this season. 

Most importantly, we’re committed to creating an environment in which the girls have fun, make friends and feel part of a team. If they learn something, get some fresh air and do some healthy exercise at the same time, even better!

Rugby is the game of our lives. We hope it will be yours too.

Contact Charlotte Pindar, Girls’ Chairwomen, at or turn up on Tuesday evenings, 6.30-8pm.

Touch rugby for men and women

For over 16’s, Touch Rugby is organised on Monday evenings 7.30-9pm and is open to both women and men. Touch Rugby is a relaxed, social, non-contact game. The rules are very simple and we can teach any beginners who want to give it a go. Everyone is welcome at Touch Rugby; men, women, beginners or experienced players.

One of the ladies who plays on Monday evenings has given this glowing report of Touch Rugby. “I’m so glad I gave it a go when I saw it advertised last summer. I wasn’t sure I’d be any good when I started but everyone is so friendly that it doesn’t matter if I sometimes make mistakes. Touch Rugby complements the pilates, yoga and dancing that I do during the week. It really tones my legs up. I always look forward to Monday nights”.

If you would like to try something different and are interested in a non-contact form of rugby give touch rugby a go.

Visit the Ely Tigers Website

New Community Bus Partnership – good news for Ely as improved city centre bus service begins

A new and improved bus route around the city of Ely set off today (Monday 3 September) from Market Street following a campaign by a group of local residents and councillors for a better bus service for Ely.

Following the loss of the old number 15 Ely service, a group of local councillors along with two Ely residents have been working with the help and support of officers at the County Council, and planners at Stagecoach, to make improvements to the current bus timetables on offer to Ely residents.

In an innovative move, a Community Bus Partnership has been formed between Stagecoach and the campaign group to promote the service locally with the aim of building up ridership over time.

The revised number 9 service will run on a circular route around the city, linking residential areas around Beresford Road, Priors Court, Cam Drive and Kings Avenue with the Ely Leisure Village, Princess of Wales Hospital, Sainsbury’s, city centre and Tesco. The route also provides through journeys to Cambridge for shopping. Initially, the bus will run every two hours during the day, on Mondays to Saturdays, and fares will be £1.80 for a single journey and £3 for an all-day ticket covering the Ely area.

City of Ely, East Cambs District and Cambridgeshire County Councillor Lis Every said, “We are delighted that Stagecoach has stepped in to provide this improved service for Ely and our campaign group will be throwing our efforts into promoting the route locally to help it thrive.”

District and County Councillor Anna Bailey said “Part of the discussions we have been having locally around bus services is the need for longevity to help build and sustain ridership over time. We want this to feel like a community service and one of the ideas we have is to provide very local versions of the timetables relating to different areas of Ely.”

District and City Councillor Richard Hobbs added “There is a lot of local knowledge available about the transport needs of the area. Ely is expanding, and this recent and future growth along with other detailed local information will all be helpful to ensure the success of this new and improved service for residents and tourists alike.”

Andy Campbell, Managing Director of Stagecoach East, said: “Community bus routes are vital yet, across the country, many services are struggling. This Community Bus Partnership is an excellent example of the sort of creative thinking that has the potential to help encourage greater usage. Stagecoach is pleased to be working with the Council and community, as part of this forward-thinking solution.”

Cambridgeshire County Council will also be working with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer and the Combined Authority to consider longer term options for bus services in the area pending a more far-reaching Bus Review by the Combined Authority.

Full timetable information for the new no 9 service can be found at:

New Netball Season Celebrations for Ely

A wonderful start to the new season for Ely Netball Club!  Four of five teams took to the court for the weekend fixtures, resulting in two wins and two very close end results – with a total of 135 goals scored.

The club is also celebrating having received two grants; from Mick George Sports Fund in association with Living Sport, which has helped purchase much needed equipment, and the second grant from Sport England, will help towards the club’s new initiative of offering Walking Netball sessions.

Anyone interested in playing for Ely Netball Club or finding out more about the new Walking Netball please contact

Picnic in The Park Rocks Sutton Once Again

Saturday 1st September saw Sutton Feast’s Picnic in The Park event delight the crowds once again. This year the sun shone and hundreds of festival goers, young and old, came out to enjoy the festivities. This year the event featured 5 bands, headlined by the mighty Iron Fist!!

It was a brilliant show and there was something for everyone, up and coming artist, Jess Davies opened the show, crowd pleasers Five Ska got the crowds dancing, an acoustic folk and blues from Ady Pope and a lively rock set from The Numbers completed the line up.

Children enjoyed free face painting, henna tattoos and a massive bouncy castle. There was an array of food on offer provided by Sutton Scouts, Sutton Feast and St Andrews Church as well as sweets from Mr Simms.

The event, as always, finished off with a spectacular firework display that had to be seen to be believed. Onlookers squealed with delight as the sky over Sutton lit up, to a fantastic musical overlay which incorporated a fitting tribute to the anniversary of the end of World War One.

A spokesman for Sutton Feast said “This was the best one yet! So many people came out and enjoyed the relaxed party atmosphere created by a wonderful community. The fireworks provided a fitting climax to a fantastic day! We would like to thank all of our sponsors, volunteers and supporters for making the event so successful”

Sutton Feast Committee are so grateful to the whole community for helping to make the event so successful year on year and look forward to doing it all again in early September 2019.

Funding agreed to extend local urgent care improvements

Funding has been agreed by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG to extend the Local Urgent Care Services (LUCS) pilots in East Cambridgeshire and Fenland for a further year.

Over the past year, the CCG has been working alongside local services and clinicians to help provide better access to urgent care services for local residents, to improve patient experience, and to ease pressure on A&E departments.

This includes the launch of the Ely Local Urgent Care Services (LUCS) Hub pilot, where GPs are now working alongside nurse practitioners in Ely MIU to provide a ‘one-stop’ service for patients with minor illnesses and injuries.

Local GP, Dr Alex Manning, said “This is great news for local services. The Ely LUCS pilot has shown promising signs, and now we can explore how we can expand this service further.

“GP workforce and recruitment remains a challenge locally. However, a number of new staff have been recruited to start in September which will help to ensure reliability of the service. Should there be any reduction or change in services available, we will ensure patients are made aware of this and of the alternative local services available during that time.”

Over the past year, nearly 13,500 patients have used the Ely LUCS service – an increase of 4 per cent compared to 2016/17. Patient feedback has been positive, with two-thirds of patients seen and treated at the Ely LUCS hub with no follow-up appointment required.

Learning from the Ely experience, work also continues to develop local urgent care services for Wisbech and for the South Fenland area.

Dr Manning added “We are working with GPs in Wisbech and North Cambs MIU to look at the best way for services to work collaboratively. Various options have been considered, and it is hoped that this new service will start later in the year.”

There are also a number of new initiatives in place in South Fenland to help ease pressure on nurses and GPs. For example, as part of the ‘Time to Care’ project, a large number of receptionists have been trained as ‘Care Navigators’ so that patients can be directed to the most appropriate service, and to help reduce demand on GPs. New systems have also been introduced for managing correspondence, which frees up GP time.

Information on opening hours and minor illnesses and injurues that can be treated at MIUs can be found at:

Review – Youth Acts Up: The Dracula Rock Show

A couple of months ago Youth Acts UP decided to join NODA (National Operatic Dramatic Association). They support local groups and provide advice on anything theatrical. A NODA Representative also pops along and reviews the show. You may even be nominated for an award (fingers crossed). So here it is, our very first review……. Well done cast, marvellous 🙂

NODA review:


Youth Acts Up
Little Downham Village Hall

This was my first visit to new NODA youth society Youth Acts Up in Little Downham and you would not think that spending the evening with a crowd of vampires and zombies doesn’t sound much like fun but it was. The script was just right for the cast of 7 – 16 year olds with some great songs. A story of Zombies, Dracula mixed with a rock star Jagged Mick and saving the day Shirley Holmes with Dr Watson, not forgetting Holmes’ arch enemy, Moriarty, this all made for a good romp.

The excellent set created a super home for the Count and the undead. Lighting added to the spooky effect, sound effects were great and sound level was well handled and pitched just right to accommodate the young voices. The costumes and make-up enhanced the characteristics of the array of colourful characters. Director Becky Green had rehearsed the company well in the limited rehearsal time available. All the music, which included country and rock, was sung to backing tracks. Singing, particularly when the whole cast was involved was excellent and movement which suited all abilities was performed with a good level of accomplishment. Once or twice there appeared to be slow entrances but having seen the limited access available from the wings that was understandable. Dialogue was handled reasonably well but at times nerves overcame recall and projection.

All involved were well focused and everyone in the company will have learnt from the process. This was mainly an ensemble piece led by two good narrators. As the story unfolded all the characters were convincing. The humour was reasonably well timed and well brought out. Jagged Mick and The Blood Sisters were very good and the principal characters were all well-cast and did a splendid job. I am not sure who played which role but an extra well done to Count Dracula, Shirley Holmes, Dr Watson, Moriarty and particularly Mrs Peterson, Moriarty’s

This was a fun show which was obviously enjoyed by those involved and all their hard work was very well received by the audience.

Review by: Julie Petrucci

We would also like to announce the Workshops and auditions for our next show Peter Pan the panto written by local children’s story writer Peter Crussell. Please see poster attached for info.
On top of all this and our next exciting term we would like to announce that during rehearsals for “ The Dracula Rock Show” performed in July one of our cast members Nathaneal Fulford (Dracula) has won a full-time scholarship to study performing arts.

From September he will attend the Redroofs School for performing arts in Maidenhead. He will be covering not only academic subjects but also drama, ballet, tap, musical theatre, script and street dance.
In the future Nathaneal will have the opportunity to go to auditions in film, TV and West End shows. We at Youth Acts UP wish Nathaneal every success. On the downside we now have to find somebody to replace him.

‘Secondary School of the Year’ Ely College celebrates impressive GCSE results

Hot on the heels of being announced as ‘Secondary School of the Year’ at the recent Education Awards, Ely College has today built further on the huge improvements secured in 2017 with some of the best GCSE results in its history.

62 per cent of students secured grades 4-9 in both English and mathematics – a 27 per cent rise on 2015. 44 per cent of students secured the top grades (5-9) in both English and mathematics – a 4 per cent increase on last year, and significantly above last year’s national average.

The proportion of students achieving the top grades was particularly pleasing. An impressive 60 entries were graded at the new ‘Grade 9’, which is awarded to the top 3 per cent of students in the country.

138 GCSEs were awarded at either grades 8 or 9 (equivalent to at least the old A*), compared with 91 at that level in 2017. Overall, the proportion of top grades awarded (grades 5-9) rose sharply, by 10 per cent, to 51 per cent.

Richard Spencer, Principal of Ely College, commented: “I’d like to congratulate all of our students and their families on these excellent results for Ely College. Improving on last year’s results seemed a tall order twelve months ago, but I’m delighted with how the students and staff have risen to that challenge.

“The excellent results today reflect a great deal of hard work from our students and my wonderful staff.

“Ely College is once again a school of which the community can be proud, and we are determined to build further on this success in the years to come.

“I wish all of our students every success as they move onto further education, and am excited to be welcoming many of them back to our own Bishop Laney Sixth Form.”

Last week, Bishop Laney Sixth Form, a new collaboration between Ely College and Soham Village College, celebrated an excellent set of post-16 results, with a 100 per cent pass rate in its vocational courses. The average grade awarded was a distinction. From this September, students will once again be able to study A Levels at Bishop Laney Sixth Form.

For more information about Ely College, please visit:

Hard work pays off for GCSE students at King’s Ely Senior

King’s Ely students are celebrating their GCSE results with around two thirds of all grades achieved being 9 to 6.

65 per cent of all GCSE results achieved this year were Grades 9 to 6, 22 per cent of which were Grades 9 to 8. Under the reformed GCSE marking scheme, results are awarded on a 9 to 1 scale, with 7 being broadly equivalent to an A grade. Grade 8 is approximately equivalent to the former A* grade, with Ofqual seeing a 9 as ‘exceptional performance’.

8 per cent of this year’s results were Grade 9, 42 per cent were Grades 9 to 7, 84 per cent were Grades 9 to 5 and 95 per cent were Grades 9 to 4.

In Maths, 100 per cent of students achieved at least a Grade 4 pass, with 88 per cent achieving at least a Grade 5 ‘strong pass’. 31 per cent of results in Maths were Grades 9 to 8. In the challenging Further Maths, 33 per cent of students achieved a Grade 8 or 9.

In English Language, almost half of all students achieved a Grade 9 to 7.

Results in History were of particular note, with over 50 per cent of students gaining a Grade 8 or 9. In Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Spanish, Textiles, Latin and Physical Education, over one third of all grades were at least an 8.

Joseph Lacey and Victoria Davies led the field with Grade 9’s in six of their subjects; they also achieved A* grades in GCSE Further Maths. Victoria also took an extra GCSE in Dance and achieved an A* in Ancient Greek which she took last year. Charlotte Ebbens, Edmund Heaney, Imogen Kirkpatrick, Anthony Taylor Gutierrez, Toby Whittome, Elena Wilden and Sihan Yu all achieved four Grade 9’s with Lily Buckley, Anna Chaudhry, Ben Garrett, Daniel Grapes, Tom Henderson, Lucy Lott and Charlotte Wilkinson all gaining at least two Grade 9’s among their excellent results.

Overall more than 20 per cent of students this year achieved Grades 9 to 7 in their top eight subjects. These students were Solomon Boon, Lily Buckley, Anna Chaudhry, Victoria Davies, Madeleine Dening, Ben Garrett, Daniel Grapes, Edmund Heaney, Tom Henderson, Imogen Kirkpatrick, Joseph Lacey, Anthony Taylor Gutierrez, India Thomas, Toby Whittome, Elena Wilden, Charlotte Wilkinson and Sihan Yu.

Principal of King’s Ely, Sue Freestone, said: “This period of transition has given rise to some trepidation. However, our students have given a really good account of themselves and we are proud of what they have achieved.”

A total of 37 students from 11 different countries also studied the intensive one-year IGCSE programme at King’s Ely, which sees them studying in their non-native speaking language. Maths was the only subject out of the 15 on offer that followed the new Grade 9 to 1 syllabus; all other subjects were assessed A* to F as in previous years.

This year’s IGCSE results are among the highest in the course’s 18-year history at King’s Ely, with 26 per cent of results being A* or Grade 9 to 8, 53 per cent being A* to A or Grade 9 to 7, 78 per cent being A* to B or Grade 9 to 6, 97 per cent being A* to C or Grade 9 to 4 and 99 per cent being A* to E or Grade 9 to 2.

Photography, Textiles, Chemistry, Further Maths and First Language English achieved 100 per cent A* to C or Grades 9 to 5, and the highlight of the year was Chemistry, which achieved a 100 per cent A* to B pass rate for the 16 students who sat the exam.

In Maths, 87 per cent of students achieved Grades 9 to 7, of which 38 per cent were Grade 9 (exceptional performance). In English Language, 94 per cent of results were A* to C.

Of particular note this year is Ilaria Dimina who sat ten IGCSEs after just two terms of study at King’s Ely International and achieved A* and A grades in nine of them, including three languages.

Four students achieved all A* and A grades in the eight or seven exams they sat; Anastasia Belan, Gar Bo Chow, Liam Joe Lau and William Wu. In addition, the following eight students achieved 100 per cent A* to B grades in their one-year courses: Zhiying Cen, Jingyi Fu, Suttapa Ittipornavich, Pui Man Leung, Eric Poon, Ho Lam Tsang, Yanhan Wang and Fanyao Ye.

Academic Director of King’s Ely International, Matthew Norbury, said: “These are the global citizens of tomorrow and, as ever, they flourish at King’s Ely. That our cohort continues year on year to achieve excellence whilst studying abroad bears testament to the outstanding teaching and highly focused effort these pupils apply. As always, King’s Ely is immensely proud of its international community.”

Autumn Open Events are being held for all sections of King’s Ely in September and October. To book your place for more information, please visit

A Jolly story for Ely High Street

Ely is once again welcoming another independent brand to its wonderful community of small businesses.

The Jolly Bobbin will be opening its doors on Chequer lane on the 25th August. Owners, Amy and Mike Jolly of Ely have been operating as The Jolly Bobbin since 2015 when Amy began making and selling baby booties and hair-bows online. This grew into making a whole range of custom clothing, ranging from leggings to dungarees and sweatshirt tops. After becoming parents and getting fed up of the lack of truly gender-free, fun and colourful kids clothes on the high street, Amy decided this would be her inspiration.

After teaching paramedic husband (Mike) to sew, The Jolly Bobbin has been a busy little enterprise. With ever-growing online interest and two busy summers of festival trading, they decided to take the leap into a bricks and mortar shop in the centre of Ely.

The shop will be a miniature emporium of ethical, fun and practical child and parent related goodies. Alongside their organic gender-free clothing range (made on site), they have collaborated with other wonderful independent brands to bring a wide variety of products, including:- organic leather baby shoes, baby carriers/ring slings (following T.I.C.K.S rule), cloth sanitary products, hybrid cloth nappies, Baltic amber necklaces, teething/distraction necklaces and hand held pieces, beautiful vintage and chakra jewellery, reusable straws and kitchen roll, rainbow glass decorations, KindHuman t-shirts, beautifully upcycled campervan furniture, educational eco toys/puzzles/games and some lovely hand puppets from The Puppet Company. The Jolly Bobbin will also be stocking some goodies made by Rex London such as colourful lunch bags, mini backpacks, cushions and many more wonderfully useful items.

Opening day looks to be a great one with cake, prosecco and discount codes being given away during the morning.

Follow them on social media.

Toasting the Best of British Bed and Breakfasts

Local favourite Grove Barn has been shortlisted for National annual awards that celebrates the best independent hosts and hoteliers from across the UK

Grove Barn has been shortlisted for both the “Outstanding Host” and regional “Hidden Gem” Award at Britain’s premier annual awards for the industry. The eviivo Awards, now in their fifth year, celebrate the best of Britain’s world-class, and world-famous bed and breakfasts, guest houses, inns and small, independent hotels.
Recently announced, the eviivo Awards 2018 shortlist has seen Grove Barn, run by Joanne Holman, reach the final stages of the nomination process. Over the coming weeks, their application will be judged by a panel of industry experts before the winners are announced at the annual eviivo Awards dinner on the 16th of October at Quaglino’s on Bury Street, London.

Today the UK Bed and Breakfast sector is a £2 billion market of owner-managed businesses. Along with the thousands of small independent hoteliers up and down the country, they make a huge contribution to the British economy and to their local communities.
Britain’s independent B&Bs, guesthouses and boutique hotels represent the pinnacle of British hospitality, providing some of UK’s most quirky and unique holiday experiences. TripAdvisor recently revealed data showing that British B&Bs are now outperforming their larger hotel rivals by over 15% on average and the UK’s hotels and B&Bs are now rated among the very best in Europe. B&Bs, pubs with accommodation and boutique hotels are an increasingly popular choice for international and domestic holiday-makers, seeking a truly British experience.

Through their market leading technology, eviivo work closely with independent owners to help them compete on an equal footing with large hotel chains online and market their properties more effectively in the highly-competitive global marketplace.

Joanne Holman of the Grove Barn commented: “At Grove Barn we work so hard to give our guests a fantastic and unique experience. We are absolutely delighted to have that recognised through this shortlisting for the Hidden Gem – South East Award and hope we are successful on the night.”

Commenting, Paul Saxby, Events Director at eviivo said: “eviivo are proud to be working with many of the finest businesses in Britain’s vibrant hospitality sector. These are often small, family-run businesses that play a significant role in driving tourism and jobs to their local community. These devoted, independent hosts take immense pride in their service and our awards shine a light on many fine examples. What unites all of our customers is their passion and tireless dedication to offering a fantastic guest experience. Congratulations to all those shortlisted and we look forward to once again celebrating the very best in the industry at this year’s awards.”

The eviivo Awards takes place onthe 16th October at Quaglino’s on Bury Street, London.

Grove Barn is situated in Cambridgeshire. For further information please see

King’s Ely Sixth Form students celebrate excellent A Level results

King’s Ely is celebrating some of the highest set of A Level results on record with almost half of all grades achieved being A* and As.

47 per cent of all A Level grades achieved this year were A* or A, 75 per cent were graded A* to B, 89 per cent were graded A* to C and 99 per cent of all students achieved A* to E. The number of students who achieved A* grades also increased to 18 per cent this year.

By most measures, the results are the highest ever achieved by King’s Ely students, with 22 per cent of pupils achieving all A* or A grades in their subjects and 51 per cent achieving all A* to B grades in their subjects.

Principal of King’s Ely, Sue Freestone, is understandably delighted with this year’s results. She said: “These results are fantastic! This resourceful and determined group of hard-working young adults, and the staff and parents who have supported them throughout their educational journey have done a first-rate job. We are very proud of them.”

Students who achieved all A* and A grades were Martha Bent (A*, A*, A), William Black (A, A, A, A AS Further Maths), Sebastian Carberry (A*, A, A), Zoe Danes (A*, A, A), James Graver (A, A, A, A AS Further Maths), Elizabeth Hall (A*, A*, A, A), Sonia Kasprzak (A*, A, A), Eric Lin (A*, A*, A, A), Robinson Lyu (A*, A*, A, A), Emily Moore (A, A, A), Jelena Rois (A*, A*, A*), Olivia Rosenberg (A*, A, A, A), Carlotta Rosenthal (A*, A*, A, A, A), Vicky Shang (A*, A, A), and Kayla Wang (A*, A*, A*, A).

William, Sebastian, Sonia and Carlotta also took the Extended Project Qualification, achieving A* and A grades here as well. Carlotta was only 16 at the time of taking her exams which makes her achievements even more impressive.

Vice Principal Academic of King’s Ely, Jane Thomas, said: “This year group faced the challenges of new linear, reformed A Levels in all of their subjects. Inevitably, new examination specifications bring an element of uncertainty for both teachers and students therefore we are particularly delighted with these results.”

Open Events are being held at King’s Ely in September and October, with the Sixth Form Open Event taking place on Saturday, October 6th. To book your place or for more information, please visit:

Ely Runners Autumn Beginners’ Course

Ely Runners are pleased to announce their next 10 week beginners’ course – commencing on the 17th of September 2018. The course is run by qualified coaches and supported by established club members. It is very friendly and aimed at runners of all abilities: speedy types, long distance types, and those who want to go steady and just enjoy it!

The aim of the programme is to gradually build on the skills, fitness and thinking required in order to complete a 5K run at the end of the course at Littleport Parkrun. There is no obligation to attend the Parkrun at the end, but in our experience, those who have, loved it!

Ely Runners meet, come rain or shine, at the Paradise Sports Centre for 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 9am on Sundays. Tuesdaysessions consists of hill training, speed work, repetitions and intervals. Thursday training is usually a longer steady run around the City and surrounding countryside. Sundays is often a longer run in the countryside. If you’re not sure where to start, come and train with us and see what you think.

We are always up for people coming and joining us for a few sessions free of charge.

The club has a healthy membership, is active and present at many races and athletic events at various levels, and has a well looked after juniors’ section.

The beginners’ course starting on the 17th September 2018 will last for ten weeks, meeting at the Paradise Centre in Ely on Monday evenings (7pm-8pm). It costs £25 in total, with a reduced full club membership fee should participants wish to join at a later date.

For more information contact Justin at

A few words from Phil, a recent participant on the beginners’ course:

“I started running aged 55 and for two or three years I ran very slow 5k’s, three or four times a week.  However, being self-taught, I found I was unable to make any progress, so gave up when I moved to Ely.  Now, three years later, I have found that joining Ely Runners beginners course has given me techniques that are improving my fitness and performance, week by week – brilliant!.  The very first week taught me more than I had managed to learn in my previous three years running experience.  I’ve not only learnt how to run, but perhaps as importantly, how to stop being self-critical and give myself a break when I can’t run!  

That was all I had hoped for … but what I hadn’t expected was the camaraderie. 

Being relatively new to Ely and working full time has meant that finding new friends here has been a challenge.  Now, every Monday evening I meet up with great people and chat (when running permits!).  I also get to see the coaches regularly on their training runs in the area – all of whom are open to banter and all of whom make you feel that you can achieve more than you might think.

I will take a very personal lesson away from this course – I love running with other people, being encouraged and helping to encourage is what this has all become for me.  If you’re reading this and wondering whether to sign up, then in the words of a famous running brand – Just Do It!”

A few words from an anonymous participant..

“I joined the course as I was going through a period of anxiety and depression, and had heard that running is good for mental health. Day one came around and it was a wet March evening – but the coaches were so welcoming and full of enthusiasm that is barely mattered! I was apprehensive – would I be fit enough/fast enough to fit in with the group? These proved unfounded as there were a range of people with different levels of running experience on the course and enough coaches and club members out with us to ensure no-one was ever left behind.
As the course progressed so did the distance, learning techniques and pacing to help us achieve the ultimate goal of being able to complete a full 5km parkrun. The coaches are obviously passionate about running and getting the best out of their students; if you are willing to learn they are very willing to help. As well as providing advice to the group as a whole they watched us individually to provide tailored advice.
I regularly run 5 and 10k now, and have a half marathon and 16 mile cake run in the pipeline! Running has been my escape. It’s my time to clear my head and take a break from my thoughts. My mental and general health have benefitted greatly and I have found a new group of friends.”

Finally, some reflection from John..

“At the end of last year I decided to get fitter and in January started the Couch to 5k. After three months I completed it and over the next weeks gradually increased my running time and distance until I did manage to run 5k. But it was slow and hard to motivate myself. And then I met Justin who was advertising this course, and he persuaded me that it was what I needed.

The first day I was very nervous – this was not something I’d ever done before! But the the coaches were friendly and encouraging and led us through a variety of running exercises that were actually fun. By the time we went through the stretches at the end of the session I was hooked.

Through the weeks the coaches have been informative, encouraging, supportive and very understanding. As have the members of Ely Runners who have come along to help out. Their support has been invaluable! No matter what speed I’ve run there has always been someone keeping pace, encouraging and supporting. I’ve learned that there are no shortcuts in running – it takes time and effort and change is gradual. But change there is! Through the various training exercises (intervals, hills, trails) my running has been slowly improving almost without me noticing until in week 8 I went on a run that produced personal bests at every interval up to two miles!

In the end, the course has shown me the methods I can use to maintain and improve my running. It’s shown the camaraderie that can be found in group running and has made me a few new friends. And I’ve found the feeling of achievement in improving performance. I might well become a regular parkrunner for a start.” 

Cambridgeshire Artistic Roller Skating Club first year celebrations

Cambridgeshire Artistic Roller Skating Club have just celebrated their 1st anniversary!

It’s been one whole year since CARSC, Cambridgeshire’s newest roller skating club opened in Ely and Soham. The last year has seen over 350 people learning to skate in grade sessions which run every week.

CARSC took 9 of their improver skaters to their very first newcomers competition in July, bringing home 5 medals.

Ruby Mae Clarke – Gold

Rose Langford – Gold

Alisha Turner – Silver

Elli-Rae Quinn Nicholls – Silver

Molly Bugg – Bronze

“The team did absolutely brilliantly at the Retro Skate Rookies Competition; we are so proud of all of them and are so excited to watch them progress even further in the future. We had a dream of making a positive and happy place welcoming people of all ages and abilities. We are very excited for what our second year as CARSC will bring”. -Rachel Hobbs and Zoe King, CARSC head coaches

Grade Sessions

Every Thursday6-7pm, Ross Peers Sports Centre Soham.

Every Sunday11am-Midday, The Paradise Centre Ely.

Summer Holiday Fun Skates – Friday 17th August and Friday 31st August from 9:30-11:30AM at The Paradise Centre Ely.

Find us on Facebook: Cambridgeshire Artistic Roller Skating Club

Musical Bandstand Treat in Ely

On Saturday 25th August from 2.30 to 4.30pm Babylon ARTS will be hosting a fantastic afternoon of free live music on Ely’s Jubilee Garden’s bandstand. Bring a picnic and come along to listen to some wonderful local musicians perform in the sunshine. This year’s line up features, Josh Aitken, Alfie & Chris Williams and Karen & Co.

All the acts are Ely based and have all made their mark on the local music scheme. Last month singer songwriter Josh Aitken was selected to perform at Ely Folk Festival as part of their Youth Folk Challenge. He has just released an EP entitled ‘A Case OF Heart Break’ and has a reputation for delivering his own unique take on pop classics.

Chris Williams was front man of Ely’s very own Brit Pop heroes Beach Blanket Bingo. He will be joined by his guitar virtuoso son Alfie to share their rich mixture of classic tunes.

Karen & Co have been regular performers on the local music scenes for over 10 years, including performing at Ely’s Party in the Park and Innovation Music Nights. Expect a cheeky mix of acoustic disco and poppy folk.

Caroline Cawley of Babylon ARTS said: “We have always enjoyed using the bandstand to offer a variety of musical styles on Saturday afternoons and this year we have a real treat in store. I hope the sun shines and people can come along to enjoy and support the great local talent on show.

Further sporting success for talented King’s Ely student Rebecca

Kings’s Ely Sixth Form student Rebecca Daniel is jubilant after being chosen to represent England Reds in the 2018 School Games.

The eagerly-anticipated event, supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England and delivered by the Youth Sport Trust, is a major multi-sport event for the most talented young athletes from across the UK.

Between August 30th and September 2nd, more than 1,400 young sportsmen and women will compete across 11 sports at Loughborough University, including Athletics, Cricket, Cycling, Canoeing, Netball, Rowing and more.

Rebecca will be representing the England Red Under 17’s Hockey team and will be competing against England White, England Blue, Wales, Ulster and Scotland.

Director of Sport at King’s Ely, Jim Thompson, said: “I am delighted that Rebecca has been selected to represent the England Reds at the School Games. Rebecca has put in a huge amount of hard work to be selected and I am sure she will enjoy the challenge of playing at a National level.”

Rebecca has also been selected for the Saxon Tigers Under 17 Hockey team, and will be representing them in the Futures Cup, which takes place in St Albans towards the end of August. She will play against the other three English regions; The Wessex Leopards, Mercian Lynx and the Pennine Pumas, as well as the Caledonian Cougars and the Celtic Jaguars.

Last year, Rebecca was selected to play for the Under 16’s England Hockey team, and then contributed to their victories. Rebecca, who lives with her family near Newmarket, has been at King’s Ely since joining King’s Ely Junior in Year 5, and is now in the Sixth Form.

To describe her as an all-rounder would be something of an understatement as, like the majority of King’s Ely students, Rebecca has certainly taken full advantage of the extra-curricular activities on offer.

As far as Rebecca’s sporting success is concerned, accolades include National Prep School Champion 800m (Years 7 and 8), Cambridgeshire Schools Cross Country Champion twice, Suffolk Cross Country Champion (three times qualifying her for the mini marathon), Anglian Cross Country Champion, English Schools Cross Country Championship (19th in a field of 350 and despite competing a year early!) and she plays National League Hockey for Cambridge City alongside Helen Richardson-Walsh, Olympic Gold Medallist.

To discover more about opportunities at King’s Ely, please visit


CAT Theatre Company presents: The Full Monty!

In this Americanised musical stage version adapted from the 1997 British film of the same name, six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers, low on both cash and prospects, decide to present a strip act at a local club after seeing their wives’ enthusiasm for a touring company of Chippendales. One of them, Jerry, declares that their show will be better than the Chippendales dancers because they’ll go “the full monty”—strip all the way. As they prepare for the show, working through their fears, self-consciousness, and anxieties, they overcome their inner demons and find strength in their camaraderie.

Weds 17th – Sat 20th October at 7:30pm (also 2:30pm on Sat 20th) at The Maltings, Ely.

Tickets are £13 and are available online: (over 18’s only).

This is a fun and upbeat show that’s hilarious and not to be missed.’


Ely, a High Street in crisis.

Ely, a High Street in crisis

Following the announcement of probable closure last week by Mr Simms and the closure of Select, plus looming and recent closures of other retail businesses around Ely, a lot of people have voiced their concerns and touchingly, their best wishes for Mr Simms owners and employees.

Mr Simms’ statement cited rates and fading footfall as the main drivers of their downturn; this naturally drew many comments and questions from the public.

These are complex issues and the comments show a good deal of misunderstanding about various aspects of our local governance and economy, from who sets rates to rents, building use control and more. Ely is facing a growing fight for the survival of its High Street; councils and government have a big role to play but one of the most powerful weapons we have is a well informed and organised community.

I have written this report not only to help to clear up some of the confusion but also to empower Ely to fight for the survival of its High Street.  I will preface this now with a warning that it is a very long article due to the complexity of the subject matter, but one I hope you will find a worthwhile read (assuming you make it to the end!)

If you feel that you are familiar with the powers and roles of the 3 councils which govern Ely and the Combined Authority, feel free to skip to the section “Irate about rates…” now.  If you feel that you know enough about how the rates system works, you can skip that section and jump straight to “The Charity Shop debate…”

One Council to rule them all...

The first thing I’d like to address is the council structure and governance of Ely, in particular what powers they do and don’t have, within the scope of this subject.  A lot of people have the misconception that there is one single council here, often with powers well outside of the remit of any council at any level. In fact we have 3 different councils who take responsibility for Ely, each in very different ways, plus the recently created Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

The City of Ely Council

Although Ely is a city thanks to our magnificent cathedral, in all other senses we are closer to a Market Town in makeup.  The City of Ely Council is actually a Parish Council and is responsible for local issues which are generally relevant to Ely and the villages of the Parish (Chettisham, Prickwillow, Queen Adelaide, Shippea Hill and Stuntney).  Their duties include:

  • Visit Ely (Ely’s Tourist Information and Town Centres team)
  • Management of Ely’s Cemetery and services
  • Management of The Maltings
  • Operation and management of CCTV in Ely (and some nearby towns)
  • Local Needs Housing (The Clay Way/Ramsey Road housing scheme)
  • Management of many of Ely’s playgrounds/recreation areas
  • Managing Ely’s allotments
  • Ely’s Christmas Lights and Switch-On event
  • Sessions House – maintaining and using this important Grade II* listed building

The City Council has notably taken over several key roles from the District Council in recent years, including CCTV and The Maltings.  Just this year the Visit Ely team have also moved from the District to the City Council, which includes the management of tourism and town centre along with Oliver Cromwell’s House, Ely’s award winning Tourist Information Centre.

The City Council also takes responsibility for and plays a role in some of Ely’s street furniture, environment, trees, street lighting and other small initiatives.  The City of Ely Council is also a statutory consultee in planning matters and considers all planning applications within the parish – its views and comments are then considered by the District Council as part of their process.

Parish councils generally have fewer powers but are more and more taking on responsibility and roles traditionally held by higher councils, as is the case in Ely with The Maltings, Visit Ely, CCTV and so on.  Parish Councils can create minor bylaws and can enforce some existing laws.

One final point of note is that the City Council has for the last 5 years been taking over an increasing share of the annual grant to Ely Museum (shared with the District Council).  This transition has come to an end and they will be taking full responsibility for the grant going forward. Ely Museum runs the Ely Shopmobility scheme for the City Council as part of the grant conditions.

You can read more about this level of government here:

East Cambridgeshire District Council

East Cambridgeshire District Council are the next rung up on the governance ladder.  In addition to Ely they cover towns, villages and areas within the East Cambs district, including Soham, Littleport, Haddenham, Burwell and Bottisham.  A complete list can be found here:

The District Council has a far greater burden of responsibility than the City Council.  It is responsible for, amongst other things:

  • Planning Applications / management
  • Building Control
  • Council Tax operation & collection
  • Business Rates collection
  • Licensing (various including taxis, pubs, street trading, gambling etc.)
  • Social Housing provision (delegated to Sanctuary Housing and other organisations)
  • Housing Benefits
  • Refuse collection (under the Street Scene trading arm of the District Council)
  • Environmental Services
  • Food safety and hygiene
  • Sports Provision
  • Markets (under the ECTC trading arm of the District Council)
  • Car Parking
  • Public toilet facilities
  • Parks (including the Jubilee Gardens and the Country Park)

These services are offered within the entire district (along with many others not mentioned above) and can generally be categorised as services which are localised to an area but would not be specific to any one place (although there are exceptions).

The District Council are geared up to undertake large scale projects and even some infrastructure work, for example the recently opened Ely Leisure Village.  In recent years they have formed two trading companies, East Cambs Trading Company (ECTC) and Street Scene. ECTC has already engaged with building residential homes (on Barton Road) and is enabling house building across the district by supporting the creation of Community Land Trusts (CLTs) [C.DCLT].  It also manages the local street markets.  Street Scene has taken the domestic refuse (and in time commercial refuse) collections in-house, following the termination of contract due to poor performance from the previous commercial supplier, Veolia.

The District Council, unlike the City Council, holds greater powers to enforce laws, regulations etc.  For example, they would be responsible for prosecuting landlords who engage in illegal practices, food safety/hygiene violations and more.  They are also responsible for business development within the city and undertake various activities in this role, including approaching national chain stores to attract them to the city.

Despite this role, the District Council has very few powers to deal with the types of issues the public often think they should do.  For example, the District Council has no real powers other than through planning/conservation area restrictions to prevent specific businesses/types of business from taking a premises.  Planning restrictions are very narrow in scope and can only really deal with the fabric of buildings, building regulations and how a development would affect the surrounding area (termed the Street Scene).  One measure which can be used is to refuse the conversion of a premises’ Planning Use Class from shop to takeaway/restaurant (or vice versa). However, outside of this the classifications are quite blunt. Most premises in Ely city centre will be in the A class, which is divided as follows:

  • Class A1 shops and retail outlets, including:
    • Shops where goods are sold, excluding betting offices/loan shops
    • Post offices
    • Ticket offices
    • Hairdressers/Salons
    • Hire shops
    • etc…
  • Class A2 – professional services
  • Class A3 – food and drink
  • Class A4 – drinking establishments
  • Class A5 – hot food and takeaway

You can read more here:

As you can see from this categorisation, most of the time when we’re talking about “The High Street” we’re referring to either Class A1 or A3/A5.  Even though the District Council can refuse to convert a premises’ class between these, it still leaves little control as virtually any type of shop/showroom can go in an A1 property without any change of use process to interject in.  If the government made these classes less broad, particularly A1, it would offer more of an opportunity to control the types of shops/retail within the UK. However, this would place an additional cost burden on businesses (particularly small ones) who would then more frequently have to pay for a Change of Use, so it is not without a downside.

This leaves the selection of tenants up to the individual landlords, who in Ely are made up generally from private individuals, companies, pension/investment funds and others.  A lot of people assume that Ely Cathedral is “the landlord” when this sort of emotive issue comes up and whilst it is true that they are one of the larger landlords, there are other large concerns of similar size or larger.  Notable landlords include Rannerlow Ltd. who own the building in the centre of Market Place, plus others around the periphery and throughout Ely. For example a pension fund owns the Coronation Parade building (currently housing from Mr Simms up to Scope, plus residential lets on the upper floors) whilst Ely Cathedral owns a majority of the medieval buildings along the High Street, plus its recent acquisition of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill building.  These are just some of the larger concerns but the reality is quite a patchwork of landlords throughout the city, some of whom let their buildings as a mix of both commercial and residential dwellings.

The District Council is responsible for the management and collection of Business Rates; they are often accused of setting them too high when the reality is that they are merely the collector of the rates.  Business Rates are in fact formulated nationally by the government – the District Council merely uses the formula to calculate and then collect the rates. Rates are calculated by multiplying the rateable value of your property by a multiplier.  A property’s rateable value is calculated by the government Valuation Office Agency or VOA [C.GVOA], who update rateable values on a 5 year cycle.  The government sets the multiplier (also known as ‘Poundage’) at the beginning of the business year (April 1st).

There are various reliefs for which you can apply to the District Council, including Charitable Rate Relief (I will discuss this in a later section) and Small Business Rate Relief but again the District Council merely applies the rules set higher up in central government.  This is an important point to understand because so often people’s reaction is “why are ‘the council’ charging such high rates” and similar questions. With the exception of the ability to give charities an additional relief rate at their discretion (above the mandatory national 80% relief), the District Council has virtually no powers in this respect.

Cambridgeshire County Council

The final and top level of governance from a council is the County Council.  As the name suggests this covers the entire of Cambridgeshire and their services and remit are generally far broader than either the District or City Councils.  You could generally categorise their services and responsibilities as those which are shared by many areas and are not specific to any one area (again there are some exceptions).

Some of the County Council’s services and responsibilities include:

  • Social Care provision
  • Schools and Education provision
  • Highways/Infrastructure management and expansion projects
  • Street Lighting (although in Ely, both the District and City Councils are responsible for a small portion of the street lighting, which they outsource to the County Council’s contractor – Balfour Beatty)
  • Public Transport
  • Waste Management (recycling centres, tipping facilities etc.)
  • Consumer Protection
  • Jobs/Unemployment Services

These are just a few of their services and responsibilities but as you can see they are much broader in scope and relate to every village, town or city, rather than individual areas or places.  I won’t go into further detail on the County Council because except for the scale, it is somewhat repetitious, except to say that again the powers to prevent certain types of shop or reduce rates do not lie at this level of governance in England.

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority

In addition to the 3 councils we also have the new Combined Authority, led by the County Mayor.  This body has been granted a large pot of money to undertake development and infrastructure projects in the area.  At this time it is not clear how this funding might be delivered or how Ely might benefit as the authority is relatively new and is still finding its feet.   It may however become a potential source of investment money for Ely in the future.

Who funds the Councils?

The councils are funded primarily through the local precept. This is a portion of the Council Tax that you pay and is set annually by the City and District Councils as part of their budget planning.  The City Council’s precept for 2018/19 was set at £515,547 which for a Band D property works out to £75.15 per year (£1.45 per week). The District Council’s precept for 2018/19 is £142.14 for a Band D property (£2.73 per week).  Finally the County Council precept is £1249.83 for a Band D property in 2018/19 (£24.03 per week), with a further £198.72 per year for Cambs Police and Crime Commissioner and £68.76 for the Cambs & Peterborough Fire Authority (combined, £5.14 per week).

The various councils also have the potential to raise revenue through services, including refuse collection, cemetery fees, venue hire and so on.  Generally any such revenue will primarily cover costs of the service/venue and then any remainder would be taken into account in the budget and when considering whether or not a raise or reduction to the precept rate is required for the next period.

Another source of funding which the City and District Councils receive is from development works.  When a large scale development (or even a single dwelling) is built, various levies are negotiated by the District Council to offset the potential damaging effects they may have on the area, by allowing various mitigation projects to be undertaken. Section 106 agreements and Community Infrastructure Levy are negotiated by the District Council and a share is passed to the City Council from these, managed by the District Council (at present). These funds do come with restrictions and regulations, for example they may be locked to transport projects or open spaces development, can often be spent on new projects/developments only and particularly in the case of Community Infrastructure Levy, project proposals must undergo public consultation before the money can be spent.  A recent example which is easy to understand was that from the levy on the Sainsbury’s development, which was expected to cause congestion due to extra in-town driving, the Ely No. 15 bus was funded to provide cheaper transport and reduce dependence on cars to shop there. Whether or not this worked, in reality, I will leave for you to decide!

Finally the District Council who administer and collect Business Rates are entitled to keep up to 50% of the revenue they generate, with any not retained being returned to central government for redistribution through various mechanisms.  The District Council will use these funds to run local services and projects and they will also help to determine how much they charge in the Council Tax Precept to each household. It is crucial to remind yourself at this point that the actual rates and valuations are not determined by the District Council; they merely apply the formula set out by the government for the whole country and use the predetermined property values (London has a different formula due to higher valuations).

Irate about rates…

So now that I’ve broadly outlined the different councils and their responsibilities and powers, it’s time to look at the situation affecting Ely’s traders.

Mr Simms’ statement squarely puts the blame on Business Rates and fading footfall.  So what are business rates? Simply put they are a tax on the occupation of any non-domestic property (with a few exceptions).  Rates are rooted in taxation legislation dating back many centuries. The funds raised from them are supposed to support local services however in reality a significant portion is handed back to central government.  So why are they causing a problem in Ely?

There are several factors to consider here.  Most importantly is the rateable value for a business property and how it is calculated.  The Rateable Value represents the rental value of the property over one year, from a given date (these are updated every 5 years).  This is then multiplied by the Poundage multiplier which gives the Business Rates figure that each business must pay per year. If your rateable value is below £12,000 then you are exempted entirely and will pay no rates at all.  If you have a rateable value between £12,001 and £15,000 you benefit from a sliding scale reduction, which is termed Small Business Rate Relief. Some examples would include:

A rateable value of £13,500 would be eligible for a 50% reduction in your rates bill,

A rateable value of £14,000 would be eligible for a 33% reduction in your rates bill.

Even above these levels there is a low and high multiplier rate (the Poundage).  If your property’s rateable value is below £51,000 the multiplier for 2018/19 is 48p and above this threshold, 49.3p.  Whilst this may seem insignificant, it all adds up.

The next thing you must consider is that shop rents are very high in Ely.  A 2012 update to the East Cambridgeshire District Council’s Retail Study [R.DCRS] includes examples for Ely, Littleport and Soham in 2011.  At the time of writing I was unable to find more recent data.  These high rents will of course return high rates when this is put through the national formula.  When you compare the rents (and hence rates) here to comparable market towns in the area (adjusting for the fact there’s a cathedral here) we are significantly higher.  The rents in 2011 for Littleport were £161 per square metre for Soham £188 per square metre. Soham has a population roughly half that of Ely and yet the same measure for Ely shows an almost 300% higher rate at £543 per square metre.  This is the real crux of the matter and it has a complex series of sub-factors which make the whole thing very difficult to tackle.

Firstly high rents can be infectious!  One aspect to this is that we do have quite a number of large landlords with multiple properties and if they see they are able to achieve high rents on one property they will be inclined to try for higher rents on their other properties, it is after all their business to rent properties and so profit margins are king.  This is not restricted however to single landlords as rental prices from anywhere in the city can be a strong influencing factor when a landlord makes their decision.

Location is as with everything, a key factor in deciding rental prices on commercial premises.  The closer a property is to a main street, the higher its rental price will be. For example you would expect the passages between Market Street and High Street to be significantly lower than on those two main streets.  Footfall makes up part of the equation too in so much as shops at the very end of the street where fewer people visit will usually command a lower rental price than those further in/toward the centre. The number, type and sizes of surrounding businesses/properties (commerce type and density) may also have an effect too – for example if there is a small shop in the middle of a row of residential properties, you would expect a lower rental than one in the middle of a dense row of shops/businesses.  Similarly a shop surrounded by/characterised by desirable features or aspects, such as Ely Cathedral or a shop in one of the medieval commercial premises on Ely’s High Street would be expected to command a higher rental value.

To give a few examples of currently advertised properties and their rates:

1 High Street (Anglia Wines)

435 square feet of sales floor (plus 409 square feet upstairs, for amenities, storage etc.)
Rent: £20,000 pa ~ Rates: £8,040 (current rateable value £16,750)
Total per year:  £28,040 ~ Rent/Rates split: 71% / 29%

13 High Street (Clinton Cards)

975 square feet of sales floor (plus 760 square feet upstairs, for amenities, storage etc.)
Rent: £35,000 pa ~ Rates: £12,815 (current rateable value £12,815)
Total per year: £47,815 ~ Rent/Rates split: 73% / 27%

29 High Street (the old convenience store)

1,256 square feet of sales floor (plus extra for amenities, storage etc.)
Rent: £42,500 pa ~ Rates: £22,920 (current rateable value £47,750)
Total per year:  £65,420 ~ Rent/Rates split: 64% / 36%

36 Market Street (Joyce Family Butchers)

980 square feet (comprising sales area, office and stores)
Rent: £13,000 pa ~ Rates: £0 (current rateable value £9,800)
Total per year:  £13,000 ~ Rent/Rates split: 100% / 0%

68 Market Street (China Inn)

1,127 square feet (ground floor comprising kitchen, storage, lobby & dining area: 80 covers)
689 square feet (upstairs floors and basement, for storage and services)
Rent: £25,000 ~ Rates: £10,320 (current rateable value £21,500)
Total per year:  £35,320 ~ Rent/Rates split: 71% / 29%

As you can see from these examples (correct at the time of writing, based on active property listings on the Internet) for many premises, rent is only ⅔ or less of the battle.  See reference [R.GPRV] to check rateable values for yourself.

The Charity Shop debate...

The final big factor influencing rents, taking all of the factors I’ve already discussed into account too, is a very contentious issue: charity shops.

I would like to preface this section of discussion by stating that I appreciate the enormous amount of good charities and charity shops can do.  In many cases they fill in holes left by poor government policy and underinvestment in social care, disease research (in particular) and more. In many places they can help to fill vacant properties and stave off the knock-on effects of shop vacancy.  It is reported that as many as 25% of charity shop volunteers are there whilst seeking full time employment, which can be of enormous benefit to mental wellbeing and can even add to one’s CV. What I am presenting here is a dispassionate statement of the facts and effects the charity shops can have.  There has long been an argument that they are damaging the High Street and I hope simply to give you a grounding of the facts and figures here in Ely so you can make up your own mind on the issue.

The central point of contention in the debate around charity shops damaging our High Streets is that of Charitable Rates Relief.  Put simply, charities are entitled to the Mandatory Charitable Rates Relief of 80% in England. In addition to this charities can also apply to the local authority responsible for handling rates (for Ely this is the District Council) for a discretionary additional relief of up to 20%, which if granted in full could mean a 100% exemption from Business rates.  In reality the majority of English councils reported that they do not grant this additional relief [C.DRRR].  This may not seem like a bad scenario – charitable organisations get a tax break so more money goes towards their good work; there are however some obvious side effects and some subtle issues surrounding this policy, which it is argued have a seriously deleterious effect on our High Streets.

The first of these is the effect on rental prices.  As I’ve demonstrated previously the rates can be over 50% of a property’s rental price, especially if the 5-yearly update rateable value hasn’t caught up with the current market climate (this is very noticable for 29 High Street, where the rateable value is a full £5,250 above the current asking price).  Where charities can obtain an 80% reduction (potentially even a 100% exemption) in rates, their overheads are significantly lower. This means that their ‘buying power’ when it comes to choosing a property and rental price is significantly higher than a private non-charitable business. A recent example is Oxfam which has moved into the old Argos shop:

The rental price for the old Argos property (7 High Street) was £53,000 pa.  The current rateable value is £50,000 for this property and so the rates are:  £24,000. This means that in order to rent the property and before all other costs including utilities, fitting, staff and other costs, a private business would have to pay £74,000 per year just to be in the building.  Compare this with a charity in receipt of charitable rate relief which would only have to find between £53,000 and £57,000 (depending on whether they were granted discretionary full relief by the District Council). In addition, charity shops rely almost solely on volunteers and so the staffing overheads are significantly lower, as of course are their stock costs when the majority is comprised of donated goods.

The argument is that this disparity in ‘buying power’ puts private businesses at a significant disadvantage by comparison.  Charity shops will (within their budget) be able to offer up over and above the level a private business can withstand. This may also be compounded as many charity shops are backed by a national organisation which can provide funding to weather a dry spell, should a store not be performing so well.  When we compare this to the case of Mr Simms (who despite being a franchisee, must fund their own survival entirely) there is no such safety net and obviously conditions have become too difficult to for them to continue to trade. I won’t name names but I am reliably informed that within the last few years, one or more businesses trying to enter the market in Ely have been gazumped by one or more charity shops, who have offered up on the already difficult to afford rents in the area.

Government policy dictates that landlords must start to pay Business Rates on an empty premises after 3 months.  There are a few exceptions including warehouses (for an additional 3 months), listed buildings (until they are reoccupied) and buildings owned by charities (if the next use will be charitable) [C.RRES].  Even where a landlord may wish to let to a private business over a charity shop, this policy could force their hand due to the not insignificant mounting costs of business rates they face paying on their empty premises.

Unlike the domestic rentals market, commercial landlords are driven to seek the longest terms possible.  The cost of marketing and filling an empty property (to say nothing of rates and lack of rental income) mean that for a commercial landlord short term rentals are a higher risk.  For any business new or existing, the commitment to a longer term contract poses a higher risk especially so as should they fold, they are still legally liable for the ongoing rent bills.  As previously discussed, most charity shops have the weight and financial security of a large charitable organisation behind them. This when combined with the massively reduced overheads (rates, staff, cost of goods etc.) creates a clear imbalance in the level of risk a longer term contract poses to them as opposed to a private business, especially those of a smaller scale or with no additional premises.  This reduced risk will naturally be more attractive to commercial landlords; it could be argued that this puts an upward pressure on the commercial lettings market, as landlords don’t have to choose between higher risk/shorter term private tenants and charities who are prepared to take longer tenancies and are more shielded from local and national market forces and collapse.

Another not so obvious effect charity shops may have is a reduction in footfall draw, when compared with a private business in the same location (and hence of a similar size).  If you recall Mr Simms’ statement included that “fading footfall” was in part to blame for their downturn. This is actually the perfect example of this effect; Argos, a major “anchor” store which drew significant footfall and was a destination shop (one for which people would potentially make a specific trip to Ely) has gone and instead of a comparably sized retail or food service business taking its place, has become a charity shop.  When planning shopping centres, designers ensure they are carefully studded with anchor stores. These draw people around the complex and ensure that they pass as many of the smaller stores along the route as possible. Argos had this footfall effect and draw in a way which kept the top end of High Street busy (even throughout a rumoured decline in their sales at the Ely location). If you compared footfall when Argos was operating with the same place on Market Street which had no similar “anchor” store, the difference in footfall would be highly evident.  Footfall data doesn’t go back far enough but a similar decline would almost certainly be evident following Cutlacks’ move from Market Street (what is now The Hereward pub, right through to Caffe Nero on High Street). Retail at this end of Market Street has basically collapsed and has been replaced by service industries (fast food, restaurants, barbers, offices etc.) At the time when the premises was converted from retail use, then chairman for Planning at the District Council Philip Reed stated that: ‘the super-pub had been given planning permission as part of a drive to encourage more people to shop in the city centre.’ [C.MKST].

Whichever way you turn it, with the best intentions in the world, charity shops will never have the same draw as a large store such as Argos does, even if they are lucky enough to be super-duper Mary-Portas-souped-up style charity shops (I’ll get to her later!)  We have to face the reality now that Ely’s High Street may never regain that critical footfall driving store it desperately needs (as Oxfam are likely to be a long term tenant) and trade may be permanently harmed as a result. We have only to look at the Hereward/Cutlacks example to see the outcome of this sort of downturn.

I did not intend through this example to single out any one charity shop – it just so happens that the Argos/Oxfam example is intrinsically linked with the fate of Mr Simms and ably demonstrates all of the issues already covered.

Another effect to consider which is more subtle yet is the impact to the local economy of a charity shop vs. a private business.  Private businesses generate jobs which in addition to putting money in the hands of the owners (even if they’re a national chain) creates local disposable income.  A good portion of this income will be spent in local stores, boosting the local trade and economy. It is also not uncommon for local businesses to cooperatively supply each other and boost the interconnected trade, branding and recommendations between businesses which give customers more choice and reason to visit Ely.  With the exception of a few management staff positions (which are not always full-time) charity shops rarely enable any of these local economy boosting activities to occur and further still, may prevent other businesses from entering the market which could do so.

Over the last decade charity shops have taken on more and more brand new goods to sell in their stores.  This has become a hot topic issue in this debate and many argue this is incredibly damaging to local commerce.  The argument is that a charity shop selling new goods is able to directly compete with private businesses, without the overheads of full rates or staff.  Such an advantage would enable them to sell at prices the private businesses could not sustainably match, or to be selling items which a rate paying business might not exist to do, due to the overheads and local competition levels.  The law states to be recognised as a charity shop, a store must sell “wholly or mainly donated goods”.  It’s actually quite difficult to find a solid answer on this although the general consensus seems to be that a maximum of 15-20% is allowed.  Whatever the upper limit, national estimates suggest that 6.3% of sales in charity shops are new goods [C.NWGD].

The final aspect to consider is the actual funding of the Business Rates relief.  It used to be the case that central government would fund 100% of the Mandatory Relief (80%) and 75% of any granted discretionary relief (up to 20% of the rates).  In April of 2013 the funding rules were changed; going forward from this date, any newly granted relief on rates in Ely is split 50/50 between central government and our District Council.  This represents a drop from 85% government funding to just 50% overall. To put this into some hard numbers, I will use the Wood Green and new Oxfam shops as examples, both of which opened post April 2013.

Oxfam’s rateable value is £50,000 for this property and so the rates are:  £24,000.

80% of this is £19,200 so where the government would have paid this fully prior to 2013, now they only pay 50% and so District Council would fund £9,600 per year.

Wood Green’s rateable value is £30,500 and the rates payable are: £14,640.

80% of this is £11,712 so where the government would have paid fully before, now they only pay 50% and so the District Council would fund £5,856 per year.

These calculations are just for the Mandatory Relief of 80% and ignore the potential for the 20% Discretionary Relief.  Whilst the numbers might not seem that high, if you think over a 10 year period that would equate to a £154,560 cost to the District Council for those two shops alone.  Think about where this money will come from – the Council Tax precept perhaps? Reduction in services elsewhere in the district budget?

I don’t wish to sound like a monster and suggest that charity shops are evil – rather I would suggest that perhaps this country needs to have more open debate about whether charity shops are the best way to raise money for these good causes, given the damage they could potentially cause.

One final note is that at the time of writing, a new charity intends to move in to a sizable vacant property, one of the few remaining on that street.  It currently has a planning application in progress. This is happening in area which is already struggling and in a property which has remained unlet for some time due to trading conditions, high rental price (and of course rates as a result) and rental terms.  I am not going to name names here and am mentioning it because it specifically backs up the arguments about how charity shops can act to keep rent and rates artificially inflated in Ely.

When you take the arguments I’ve given overall, the key point to take away is that because charity shops can afford the higher rents (regardless any of the other arguments), when they are abundant within an area this can act to keep rents artificially high, especially when compared with like for like towns locally.  As I’ve discussed previously this can also have a direct impact on the rates for every single shop premises in Ely to some degree and of course the City, District and County councils have no powers to mitigate these effects.

The Portas Review and Ely’s City Centre Forum…

In 2011 the Prime Minister asked renowned retail guru and TV personality Mary Portas to undertake an independent review into the state of the UK’s High Streets and town centres.  Published in December of 2011 [P.PRHS], the review found we had reached a critical point as a country and urged action in various forms to prevent irretrievable decline.  Ely was actually featured as a case study on page 39 of the report, around the period when the car parking charges were still being considered by the District Council.

The key message from the report was the need for joined-up thinking, interconnectedness and communication with and hence involvement of all stakeholders from the traders and landlords to the public, councils and potential investors.  One of the key ideas she promoted was the creation of “Town Teams”, set up to promote footfall, ease relations between tenants and landlords and much more besides. The key was that these teams should be empowered and enabled to bring about meaningful change and to promote growth and communication within an area, rather than just creating a new talking shop with little chance of achieving any lasting results.

Ely took up the challenge and initiated a series of open forum meetings to which everyone was invited to attend.  I attended from the very start and have continued with the team as it went through several different iterations to become the City Centre Forum.  Today our team consists of traders, councillors from the various councils governing Ely, the Head of Tourism and Town Centre for Ely, representatives from our Cathedral, Stained Glass Museum and Ely Museum.  I represent Ely Perspective on the team along with a fellow director and together as a group we have worked to promote greater cohesion and collaborative working between all of the councils, tourism, Ely Cathedral, our museums, shops and services in Ely.

Some of our main achievements include:

  • Breaking down historic barriers and improving communication between the various councils and stakeholders in Ely, especially our visitor attractions and traders.
  • Held seminars and consultations with a significant representation from Ely’s businesses and traders on a range of issues, including improving signage.
  • Offered training seminars on social media and other promotional strategies.
  • Creation and funding of a new Shopping and Eating guide for Ely, distributed locally to both residents and those visiting our city.
  • Creation and funding of a series of special offer leaflets which were free to participate in as a trader.  These were distributed to visitors and residents at major events such as the Cathedral’s Christmas Gift & Food Fair, Eel Day and others.
  • Distributed eco-friendly Ely-branded cloth shopping bags to visitors at major events.
  • Undertaken regular footfall surveys (with the help of Ely’s traders) to build intelligence about the health of our High Street, flow of people and to build on the data received from reports commissioned previously by Ely Perspective and various councils.

You may even have seen a few of us bouncing around dressed up as Father Christmas and Rudolph at the Christmas events in Ely!  Whilst we are very pleased with our achievements and feel that in particular the opening up of communication channels has really helped to move Ely forward, we have hit a bit of a brick wall and progress has ground to a halt.  The City Centre Forum received a small amount of funding (under £10K) from the City Council along with some of the Tourism budget (at that time from within the District Council) and grants from Ely Perspective. We kept costs low by using skills and time from within our own team, for example with graphic design work and distribution.

We were also awarded £12,000 of Section 106 money for new signage in the city.  Unfortunately following consultation and workshops with traders it became clear that this amount of money was barely sufficient to cover one of many identified areas which needed better signage, for example the top of Fore Hill (directing to the river) or one of the High Street/Market Street passages.  At this point the money is still there but the project remains on hold until such time as funds in the order of £100K can be raised to pay for a new uniform, city-wide signage scheme.

As a group we have considered various options for raising money including a Business Improvement District (a BID).  This is a national framework which allows an additional rate to be charged to businesses within an area (basically an additional tax) to fund projects to market and promote an area.  The team coordinating the BID is able to set a threshold and geographic boundary for the district, both of which act to ensure that such a measure does not unduly burden small to medium businesses, most of whom would be exempt.  The remaining businesses would then be levied with the charges, comprising mostly nationals and chains such as Boots, Tesco, Waitrose, Bon Marche, WHSmith and so on. This sort of framework is widely used throughout the UK and something which these larger businesses are well acquainted with.  Our achievements and team have been assessed by several experts and whilst there would be a long way to go to achieve a large scale scheme such as a BID, we received high praise for the significant achievements and progress we had achieved in Ely so far

Future projects we have considered (with input from traders and residents), given sustainable funding include:

  • City Centre Wi-Fi (including the river and parks) with the ability to promote business and events to visitors and residents alike.
  • A full signage package for Ely, replacing the now quite dated signs.  This would include improved modern signage throughout the city, directions to and from the riverside, updatable signage at the end of our High Street/Market Street passages and in other smaller areas to promote the businesses there and more.
  • Digital information points for tourists with interactive shopping/eating directories, directions, accommodation information and much more besides.
  • “Eel Train” shuttle service to help visitors get between the station and more remote car parks to the riverside and city centre (many visitors leave Ely never having visited the riverside or shopping centre!)
  • Ely Loyalty Card Scheme – like your supermarket reward card but used with a collective of businesses around the city.
  • More investments in new and existing events and festivals to attract new visitors, increase footfall and improve the health of our businesses.
  • Work to build a better night-time economy in Ely, for example dedicated late-night shopping night with heavy paid promotion in and around Ely to ensure best chance of success.  This might also include more use of the public outdoor spaces in the evenings to hold outdoor events and activities, for example regular evening street food and live music nights throughout the summer.
  • A dedicated paid officer empowered with funds and authority to spearhead new initiatives, events and promotions throughout the city.
  • Ely Ambassadors programme (as seen in Cambridge, amongst other places) which places Ambassadors on the ground to assist visitors and shoppers alike.
  • Commission extended footfall monitoring, surveying work and customer intelligence gather to build the sort of data needed to attract companies like Marks & Spencer, Next etc. and work with the District Council in outreach to companies.

These are just a snapshot of the sorts of things which could be achieved in the area with more funding.  It doesn’t have to be the City Centre Forum who undertakes this sort of project of course although I know I can speak on behalf of the team in saying that we would relish the opportunity to do so.

Obviously as an active founding member of the group who has spent considerable time working to achieve our aims I am biased and would like the group to be able to go further, to continue to promote and boost Ely’s city centre.  If this is something you feel should be funded I would urge you to contact the City or District Councils (I have provided contact page links in the section about each council earlier in this document) and voice your opinion. I would like to add that the City Centre Forum team is 100% voluntary and we all dedicate our own time and skills to this cause (and occasionally even money).

Where’s The Masterplan?

The District Council drew up and published the Ely Masterplan back in 2010 [M.DCMP], outlining many of the issues and pressures on the growth and development of our city.  A key issue it identifies and which is highly relevant here is the lack of available space in our city for retail growth.  We’ve all heard (or have maybe even said) “Ely’s rubbish, there are no good shops here”. Whilst at any one time we do actually have around 150+ shops, including many national retailers and some fantastic independent traders, we lack sufficient space for some of the bigger chains that people desire (those “anchor” type stores I talked about previously). The national chain shops use well honed formulas which include population size, footfall, square footage and many other metrics to assess where they can/will place a new shop.  The simple truth of the matter is that in many ways, Ely just doesn’t cut it for these retailers and so they cannot invest here. At times it may seem like it just needs someone to go out and talk with these companies and represent Ely but I can assure you this is something the District Council works hard to do on an ongoing basis.

Lack of space naturally increases the likelihood of edge-of-town and out-of-town growth and indeed new out-of-town retail developments are imminent here.  Octagon Park is set to add a new Tesco (although this is no-longer certain following Tesco’s recent financial difficulties) along with 6 retail units, a DIY/garden centre, a hotel, a restaurant, offices and some light industrial units [M.OTOP]  Situated along Angel Drove (A142) this out of town development has proven to be controversial with traders and residents alike.  Mary Portas even commented “New edge of town and out of town development is threatening to take trade from the high street”.  I do agree with her and many others that such developments pose an existential risk to our High Streets, but only if the opportunities they create are not seized upon and leveraged to the advantage of our city, its businesses, shops and residents.

Right now we are on the cusp of a large population expansion in Ely.  Upwards of 4000 homes in Ely North will add a significant boost to the population, potentially in the order of 6000-8000 people.  This could take our population close to the 30K mark and with this comes that all important footfall. More residents equals more people shopping here and using our local services, plus more guests visiting.  Of course without proper investment in services such as medical facilities and transport this could create enormous problems but above all we will start to see a huge boost to that all important metric required by the big retailers – footfall.

Boosting both domestic and international tourism in Ely is another natural way to increase footfall here.  In fact we already enjoy a very healthy level of tourism in the area with over 250,000 people visiting Ely Cathedral each year and levels in East Cambs nearing the 4 million per year mark.  There is a “but” however as much of our tourists in Ely are single-day visitors. We have some great hotels, a fantastic range of B&B establishments and some other options including self-catering lets and even AirBNB rentals.  Despite this offering, Ely desperately needs new hotels – the type which can handle coach loads of people. Octagon Park’s inclusion of a hotel will bring a significant boost to Ely’s accommodation options. Whilst it is true that these visitors will be out of town, the all important factor is that they are here for more than one day and will visit our shops and restaurants and other services where they may otherwise not have done.  Ideally we would be able to build/establish hotels within the city centre area but again we are back to this issue of lack of options. Many of our larger historic buildings and areas which could have offered opportunities for hotel development are now home to King’s Ely which locks up their use permanently and so we can only look out of town for these larger developments, in the absence of any brownfield sites.

Another organisation which locks up a significant amount of prime land is the District Council at the Grange Site (opposite the police station).  It has long been planned that these offices should be moved out of the town centre to make way for a new shopping development, on a scale which would attract the larger shops people are clamouring for here.  Very few of the District Council’s officers are actually customer facing (so to speak). Retention of an in-town presence for those customer facing roles whilst moving the majority to an out-of-town location would make a lot of sense.  Building/occupying space at The Octagon Park development would be a fantastic opportunity to start this process. Some people might argue that dumping these larger shops in the city could damage trade for our smaller independent retailers and this is of course a risk, however I would remind you at this point of the anchor store concept.  Obviously these wouldn’t be directly located on streets which are struggling, for example High Street; they would however make Ely a more desirable shopping destination, pulling in greater footfall overall with enormous potential to benefit the entire city. The thing to remember about direct competition is that it also offers greater choice to customers.  If a shopper plans a visit to make a specific purchase, a destination which offers multiple options and increases chances of achieving the desired purchase is a far more appealing prospect to that shopper, so it can be very positive. Along with the fantastic new plans to redevelop and improve Ely Museum, a development on The Grange’s site offers a potential solution to so many of Ely’s problems and would open up an exciting new shopping zone in an area which has suffered enormous decline in retail.

I would personally take everything a massive step further by expanding the Cloisters site onto its current car park footprint, enabled by moving parking provision for it and The Grange site to an underground car park beneath the Paradise playing fields.  Whilst this would be an enormous project for Ely it is done throughout Europe (even in highly heritage sensitive areas) and would open up a huge amount of land for development right in the town. Dependent on the future of the Paradise leisure facilities, now that The Hive has opened, a hotel/retail/entertainment complex could potentially replace the existing site if one were to really do big blue sky thinking… maybe that’s just me!

The final opportunity opened up by Octagon Park is the District Council’s mothballed Ely Station Gateway plan [M.DCSG] which holds huge potential for Ely.  It would rely on the relocation of Tesco (which is no longer a certainty of course) and the completion of the bypass reducing heavy goods traffic through the area, combined with the decline of light industry at the site.  If these elements could all be achieved (the bypass is already nearing completion for one), the District Council’s proposal would offer a bold and exciting regeneration of the area station area. This would include residential and office space, new jobs, potential for light retail and expansive open spaces to take aesthetic advantage of Ely’s beautiful riverside and of course the cathedral.  Right now when people visit by train they are greeted by a run-down industrial area with heavy traffic and no obvious visual link to either the city or the riverside. This sort of improvement to the area could easily boost visits by railway to Ely and consequently our local economy too.

So what’s next…

Obviously these larger scale plans I have just discussed would be years in the works.  Many things will need to slot into place to enable them to happen, including continuing to lay the solid foundation of data collection/intelligence and dialogue with traders, landlords, potential investors, residents and councils.

At present a crucial survey is underway with all of the city centre businesses.  This is being led by 4 District Councillors from the Ely Electoral Wards and has also been adopted by the City Council.   This survey will assess key the issues businesses are facing right now in these tough trading conditions. If you are a trader and have yet to answer the survey (which is currently being collected) I would urge you to fill it in as soon as possible.  The results will allow the discussion to move out of the anecdotal stage and start to build a solid picture of the issues, facts and figures. This will enable the councils and the City Centre Forum to begin to take stronger action, including taking representation all the way to Parliament if necessary.  There may also be easier fixes, for example issues with rateable valuations that can be addressed en masse. Whilst the option to simply reduce rates is not within the powers of any of our three councils (as discussed in the first section of this article) there may be other measures that can be taken – any of which would require strong evidence to start the ball rolling.  The councils can also collectively fight on behalf of the city for new legislation and options to reduce the current burden to business, due to government policies.

As I already mentioned the City Centre Forum has achieved all it really can without additional funding.  If you feel this is a worthwhile body which should be funded then I encourage you again to contact the City and District Councils to express that view.

It’s not all about the official bodies however as each and every person who lives and works in Ely can help too!  It’s an old refrain but if you make the switch to buy locally, particularly from smaller independent traders, you will provide a significant boost to the local economy.  Even just switching a single regular item purchase from a supermarket to an independent trader can make a big difference. If things are too expensive or you can’t find what you want, consider letting our traders know.  If you’re unable to get to them during the opening hours they operate, make sure they know about it – good feedback informs good service. Equally if someone is doing something particularly well, tell them – you might just make their day!

A lot of people don’t realise it but using a bank card (or contactless payment device) is not free for businesses, quite the opposite.  Whilst companies like Tesco and Waitrose have enormous market power and can negotiate very low rates with payment processors such as Barclaycard, for smaller traders the charge can be as high as 50p per transaction (in addition to monthly fees).  As you can imagine this adds an enormous overhead to purchases so if you have the cash, or can get some before you go to an independent retailer, it too can make a significant difference to their bottom line.

Recommend a friend!  Ely isn’t perfect but it has a lot to offer to visitors, shoppers and tourists.  If you have an opportunity to recommend Ely, do it! If it’s an office party, a conference, friends looking for somewhere to visit or any time you see an opportunity, give Ely that hard sell!  You might not know it but we have excellent conference facilities here so consider bringing your company to Ely for a retreat, meeting, product launch or even an AGM. Along with a fantastic range of facilities and accommodation options, our transport links by train are excellent (particularly to London and Cambridge) with many frequent services running throughout the day.  Do you know someone looking for a wedding venue, are you looking for one for that matter? Ely has some wonderful offerings from the beautiful riverside setting of The Maltings to Poets House and the breathtaking Old Hall in Stuntney, so make sure you take a look at or recommend Ely!

Say Hello!  I mentioned previously that the City Centre Forum would like to start an Ely Ambassador program; until we find a way, be an ambassador yourself!  Ely already has a reputation for being a friendly place but why not make it even better… if you see/hear someone who looks like they need directions or maybe a suggestion for somewhere to eat, take a moment to stop and help them.  Not only might you direct them to a local business they otherwise wouldn’t know about but you might leave such a good impression that they come back or recommend Ely to friends further afield. I realise this may seem like a light suggestion but there’s a reason we want to have ambassadors here, it really does work!

Explore some more!  During my time with Ely Perspective and the City Centre Forum I have surveyed and personally spoken to almost every business in Ely at one point or another.  Something I’ve frequently been told is that people who’ve lived here since the year dot walk in and say “I never knew you were there!”. Did you know for instance that we have a SubWay restaurant at the back of Spar on High Street?  Or that we have Sew Much To Do, a fantastic arts and crafts shop on High Street Passage? Ever fancied a nice relaxing massage? Positively Treated (also on High Street Passage – are you seeing why we need some signage on the passages yet?) offer a fantastic range of massages and holistic treatments.  Perhaps you’re looking to hire or buy a cocktail or party dress? Maybe a swanky new handbag? Something Special of Newnham Street may have just what you’re after. Fancy yourself some Scandinavian style – no problem, just pop along to Jensen’s on Market Street and check out their fantastic clothing ranges!  We have some really excellent shops and businesses in Ely and maybe you’ve missed a few, so why not seek them out and pay them a visit! Google Maps is your friend here, just search “shops in Ely”, zoom right in and see what you can find! You can also check out the business directory at (if you own a business and you’re not on there, make sure you add a listing too!)

We do have some very difficult issues here which require significant investment and effort to overcome. We’re not the only ones going through these difficult times but I hope this now very long report has offered some insight into the complexity of our situation – thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far!  Above all, keep the dialogue open, engage your friends and colleagues in the discussion on social media, in the pub, at home, at work, anywhere!  Shop locally, spread the word and do let the councils and decision makers know your opinions and ideas (contact links are in the first section of this article titled “One council to rule them all…”).  Together, we can keep Ely vibrant and thriving for generations to come.

Intrepid King’s Ely students enjoy action-packed Lake District expedition

Trail running, ridge walking and rock pool swimming were just some of the activities enjoyed by King’s Ely students during an adrenaline-fuelled expedition to the Lake District.

To say the expedition earlier this month (July) was action-packed would be a slight understatement – with students in Years 11 to 13 also enjoying multi pitch climbing, bouldering, scrambling and lots more.

The week-long summer holiday event was staged through the Ely Scheme, which aims to build important life skills that cannot always be taught in the classroom. While most independent schools have an outdoor pursuits programme, the Ely Scheme is both unique and central to the whole King’s Ely experience, as young people are given tangible opportunities to push themselves to achieve beyond anything they ever thought possible.

The aim is to develop each individual student through outdoor education and adventurous activity, concentrating on eight major elements: personal skills; self-confidence; teamwork; leadership skills; social and environmental awareness; problem solving; ability to cope with difficult situations and healthy respect for nature and the outdoors.

To find out more about the Ely Scheme, and other unique opportunities at King’s Ely, please visit

King’s Ely Junior pupil secures place with National Youth Girls’ Choir

Talented King’s Ely Junior pupil Sophia Garrard is singing with the National Youth Girls’ Choir this summer.

Sophia, 11, auditioned for the prestigious choir in October last year and was successful in securing a place on its summer programme, which is taking place at St Hild and St Bede College at Durham University.

The highlight of the programme for Sophia and the other girls will be singing in the ‘March With Us’ concert being held at Beamish Open Air Museum on August 18th to mark the centenary of Women’s Suffrage.

Sophia, who lives with her family in Ely, is a member of the Chamber Choir at King’s Ely Junior, and will be joining the wonderful Ely Cathedral Girls’ Choir in September. She was also a member of Cambridge University’s St Catherine’s College Girls’ Choir this year.

Head of King’s Ely Junior, Richard Whymark, said: “Sophia’s love of singing has unlocked a very special range of opportunities for her, and we have loved watching her achieve her musical dreams through sheer dedication and hard work.”

To discover more about opportunities at King’s Ely, please visit For information about the National Youth Girls’ Choir, including the upcoming March With Us concert, go to


Ely Rotary Loses a Lady Member

Gillian Brady, a member of The Rotary Club of Ely for the past 12 years, died peacefully at home surrounded by her family on 29th June, and was cremated at Fenway Crematorium on Friday 27th July.

Preceding this, a sung Requiem Mass was said at a packed St Etheldreda’s RC Church in Ely.  The reception was held at their home in Witcham.

Gillian was a valued member of Rotary, and her skills were many. In 2007 she designed all the publicity material for the first band show, depicting  a graceful lady in a flowing red dress, the hallmark for many a design in the following years.

One of her highlights was a production of “Dickens Night”, in November 2012, where she produced  a full-size model of a village street of Dickensian shops, and acted in the proceedings too (see picture).

She was also popular with her raffles, often selling more tickets than anyone else! And her attributes go on and on. She will be sorely missed.

Before joining Rotary she was a member of the ladies’ Inner Wheel, where she served as President for one year. A lady of many talents.

Over £3000 given to charities from 2017 Ely Potato Race

Street Race Delivers Multiple Local Charity and School Funding.

The streets of Ely were lined with over 1,000 spectators and watched by over 7,000 people online through our live stream, the Isle of Ely Produce organisers of the annual Potato Race on the streets of Ely have today announced the beneficiaries of the charity proceeds from the 2017 event and are appealing once again for runners for the 2018 race!

The race sees local farmers and businesses teaming up to see who can race up and down the high street the quickest whilst carrying 20kg of locally grown potatoes! It features a ladies cup and also a children’s race too.

Last years races were started by Lucy Frazer MP for South East Cambs.

Austen Dack event organiser said “We were inundated with requests for help from the £3,000 pot and together with the directors of IOE and city mayor we sat and discussed every application in detail before deciding on the winning causes.”

IOE Potato Race Charity donations 2017 were given to: 

Elysian Riding for Disabled

Ely Wildspace

Ely Museum

Isle of Ely Primary School PTA

Highfield Ely Academy

Little Miracles

British Legion

Ely Hockey Club

Holy Cross Church Stuntney

Oliver Boutwood Isle of Ely Director said “The selected charities are from across the age ranges of our community. Hopefully the money raised from our potato race will touch many people’s hearts and deliver the required results.”

The race also raised money for The Lantern, St Johns, and St Marys Primary Schools too from the children’s race and for the Ely Hereward Rotary Club who act as race stewards.

The 2018 Potato race date for your diaries is Saturday October 13th. If you would like to enter a team or sponsor a race, please email

Ely Makers Family Fun Day

Ely Makers hosted its Family Fun Day last Sunday at the City of Ely Bowls Club near the Paradise Centre. The event, which was open to Ely Makers and the public, attracted over 60 people with an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Electronics and Maths) and art whether they were total novices or professionals in their field.

Various stalls offered a range of activities and demonstrated projects ranging from autonomous robots, a 3D printer, an electronic harpsichord, a miniature steam engine replica to a hi-tech sewing machine where children and adults were invited to make their own pencil cases. One of the most popular activities of the event was building lego cars and racing them down a ramp.

The event was supported by parents with children attending various schools across Ely such as The Lantern, Ely St. Marys, Spring Meadow, and Ely College as well as the Ely Library Code Club.

The Family Fun day was also supported by local hi-tech firms and their representatives. Simone Bonanni from Thorlabs in Ely brought a couple of his personal electronics projects including an electronic harpsichord with 3D-printed keys, playing accurate sounds through advanced digital signal processing. Renowned replica steam engine builder, Dave Clark, also from Thorlabs, brought an exact scale miniature model of a historical steam engine. Thorlabs very kindly donated prizes for the raffle which made £49 for the benefit of the Lantern Primary School Library.

The local business The Innomech Group (GB Innomech and Nexus IE), who recently organised a robot competition which was held at Ely College also donated raffle prizes and Adrian Brown from the company also attended the event.

Arvind Shah, who founded Ely Makers in 2016, donated a 3D modelling and printing course. “Ely Makers provides a network for both experienced and inexperienced makers and those who might be looking for a future career in STEM subjects. We are more than happy to offer advice for those looking for information about where to start learning about robotics, electronics, coding and in other areas. For more experienced makers the group can offer inspirational peer support and a way to share their expertise and motivate younger and less experienced makers.”

Ely Makers have twice competed in the robot competition Pi Wars which is held in Cambridge in the spring-time. “We have received lots of encouragement and support from parents and families who are now able to tap into our network to find out about ways to get into science and technology”, said Arvind.

The atmosphere was one of curiosity and fun, providing opportunities for questions from people of all ages enjoying a science quiz walk, raffle, with free home-made cake and drinks.

For more information about Ely Makers please visit or send an email to  Joining Ely Makers is free.

Soham Groups Benefit from the Carnival Atmosphere

For the past 65 years, the Carnival has been staged every year to raise money to go back into the local community. This year The Carnival raised £7500.00 to donate to various Schools, Charities, Clubs and Organisations.

Our main beneficiaries this year were the 3 Primary schools in Soham.  St Andrews, The Shade and The Weatheralls who were each presented with £1500.00 each.

The remainder of the money was distributed to our other beneficiaries which included Soham First Responders, Pos+Ability, Daisy’s cause, Cruse Bereavement Services, Soham Bowls club, VIVA  Arts,  KD Theatre Productions, Soham North Chapel, Molyn,  Soham Day Centre,, Soham Comrades Band, Soham Over 60’s, Royal British Legion-Soham Branch and Soham Christmas Lights.

We also presented our Townspersons of the year, John and Helen Attlesey with the Townsperson Cup- Every year John and Helen decorate their house with an amazing Christmas lights display whilst raising money for Charity at the same time. It’s truly a magical experience for the children and adults alike of Soham and surrounding areas. Many congratulations and thanks to them- we all appreciate their kindness and generosity.

The Carnival 2019  is to be held on Monday 27th  May at the Recreation ground Soham.

You can keep up to date with information on our Facebook page.

If you would like to get involved with the 2019   Carnival please email

Soopa Doopa Spartans

Following the pairs participation in the Obstacle Race “Nuclear Rush” to raise awareness for Action of Addiction, Soopa Doopas’ Jake Scott-Paul and mate Matt Lucas were at it again, this time taking on the “Super” Spartan Race, which involved 10 miles and 28 plus obstacles.

Jake has been taking part in these events to help raise awareness around addiction and to show that recovery from substance abuse is possible.

The Spartan “Super” is one third of the illustrious “Trifetica” challenge put on by Spartan Race and is physically and mentally very challenging.
Set in the beautiful grounds of Marston Lodge, Market Harborough on one of the hottest days of the year, Jake described it as one of the hardest things he has done, both physically and mentally. All the obstacles involved lifting body weight, carrying various objects up and down steep inclines, mud swims, fire jumps and of course, 10 miles of running in 30 degree heat in and around the challenging terrain.
Not set on pushing his body through that on the Saturday, Jake ended up returning the next day to complete the “Sprint” part of the trifecta, which is a shorter 4 miles, with similar obstacles.
The third and final “Beast” race, which is 15 plus miles is set to take place in Windsor in October, and with two out of the three complete, Jake has said he has to go back and complete the set.
Jake said he was physically exhausted by the end of day 2 but mentally firing on all cylinders. “Its great to show people suffering in active addiction that you can turn you life around and be free from the hell that it brings”
Now…onto the beast….”
For any suffering with addiction: