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Hungerford's month-long arts festival gets up and running

With such a wide range of music, theatre and entertainment on offer in the HADCAF programme it seems invidious to pick out highlights, but mention must be made of Shadwell Opera's performance of Benjamin Britten's comic opera Albert Herring, to be staged in St Lawrence's Church in Hungerford on Saturday.

The company was created in 2009 to give promising young singers the opportunity to perform full-scale operas to a professional standard, and won the prestigious Herald Angel Award at its Edinburgh Festival debut. Drawing its cast from the country's top conservatoires as well as Cambridge's best chapel choirs, and supported by a 13-strong orchestra, Shadwell Opera offers a preview of the stars of tomorrow.

The literary highlight of the festival has to be the former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion's evening of poetry at Croft Hall on Tuesday, July 12, at which he will read from his most recent work Laurels and Donkeys as well as The Cinder Path and his memoir of childhood, In the Blood. Knighted in 2009 for his services to literature, he is Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway and a co-founder of the Poetry Archive. There will be an opportunity to ask him about his writing and the role of Poet Laureate, and he will sign copies of his books.

On the popular music front, King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys will be demonstrating their dazzling musicianship at John O'Gaunt School on Saturday, July 9. The band has played their exhilarating Kansas City jazz and blues in every European country as well as the USA and Russia, and their entertaining stage performances, innumerable TV appearances and radio broadcasts have established them as the world's greatest swing band.

Aspiring rock musicians will be interested to see the stunning guitarist Guthrie Govan, known for his work with Dizzee Rascal as well as his teaching, who will be demonstrating his vast musical vocabulary at the Rock Academy on Sunday, July 10, from 11am to 1pm at the Croft Hall.

Theatre highlights include Rebecca Vaughan's performance of I, Elizabeth (Friday, July 8), based on Elizabeth I's own words, taken from letters, speeches and writings (described in one of many five-star reviews as ‘a must-see for history and theatre addicts'); and The Infant (Friday, July 22), a black comedy which poses the question: ‘Are we paranoid? Or are they really out to get us?' Performed by Les Enfants Terribles Theatre Company, this bitingly funny satire is written by Oliver Lansley, co-author of the TV series Whites (starring Alan Davies), Misfits, FM and Beaver Falls.

Tickets for all events are available from Newbury Building Society (Hungerford) or to reserve, telephone (01488) 684038. Programmes are available from Hungerford and Newbury libraries and the full list of events may be seen online at www.hadcaf.co.uk

Hungerford & District Community Arts Festival opens tomorrow (Friday) and runs to Sunday, July 24.

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