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Town and gown working together to make Open Cambridge 2017 the biggest yet

From the fire station to the mosque, lots of city organisations are opening their doors to the public

What do an 800-year old charter, a ballistic separator, and a mosaic of WWII aircraft all have in common?

You can see them all, and much more besides, as part of the Open Cambridge festival this September.

An incredibly diverse range of organisations in the city of Cambridge are opening their doors to the public as part of this year’s Open Cambridge festival. The festival is a collaborative effort between the University of Cambridge and over 20 local organisations, including the Cambridge Mosque, the City Council, and Anglia Ruskin University. It takes place on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 September this year.

The City Council’s Sergeant-at-Mace will be showing off some of the City’s ancient treasures in a special talk at the Guildhall on city charters and maces. The town of Cambridge was given its first charter by King John in 1207 – that makes it eight years older than Magna Carta! That charter will be on show along with one from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I that granted Cambridge its distinctive coat of arms. The city also has an incredibly rare ceremonial mace from the reign of King Charles I. Most of these were destroyed after the King was executed, but the Cambridge example survived - although its crown was knocked off by angry Cambridge residents who supported the Parliamentarian side in the Civil War.

At the American Cemetery, visitors can discover the personal stories of some of the nearly 4,000 American service personnel who are buried there. Many Americans fought in the Battle of the Atlantic during World War Two and were lost at sea: their names are recorded on the Wall of the Missing at the cemetery, the longest such wall in Europe. The wall also bears the names of American airmen who were lost while flying missions over Europe. The mosaic roof of the cemetery’s chapel, made by artist Francis Scott Bradford, shows angels in heaven waiting to receive the souls of the lost airmen, but with an emotive twist: the souls are pictured in the form of the different models of aircraft that were used by the American air force in the European theatre of the war.

The Cambridge Mosque is holding an Open Day on Saturday 9 September. They warmly invite the public to visit them and learn more about the mosque, about Islam, and about the life of the Muslim community in Cambridge. There will be guided tours of the building and a chance to watch Muslim prayers. Members of the clergy and the congregation will be on hand all day to chat to visitors and answer questions about Islam. They will also be demonstrating Islamic calligraphy and henna art, and sharing sweet treats home-made by members of the congregation.

Amey Waste Management Park is offering tours of its impressive and sophisticated facility at Milton, which handles the household waste and recycling from all five district councils in Cambridgeshire. After a short introduction to the park’s work, visitors will be given a chance to try sorting rubbish themselves in a hands-on recycling exercise. On a tour of the site, they will see the advanced machines that sort rubbish, including the ballistic separator, and also the park’s composting facility, which takes 65,000 tonnes of garden and food waste from Cambridge homes and restaurants every year and, in just eight weeks, turns it into a rich, clean compost suitable for home and agricultural use.

Other events by city partners include an open day at the Cambridge fire station, several guided walks looking at aspects of Cambridge’s history, and a talk at Anglia Ruskin University looking at its development from an art college into ‘the Tech’ and then a full-blown University.

There are over 97 events in this year’s Open Cambridge festival, including a special series of events, India Unboxed, celebrating the UK-India Year of Culture 2017. Over 25 events are part of Open Eddington, offering a chance to learn about the innovative and sustainable design of the University’s new district in North-West Cambridge. The majority of events are free and many are drop-in.