Our colleagues in the hotels and venues round the UK can finally reopen. Many have been able to stay at least partially open providing accommodation for essential workers and space for essential meetings. Those with outdoor space have also been serving food and drink again since the 12th April. Those that have not already opened will be opening gradually over the coming weeks.
We wanted to support our colleagues and highlight the wonderful spaces we have locally in Cambridge so The Reconnect Cambridge Walk was born. On the 4th May we visited 32 central Cambridge venues, walking over 11 miles.
We also know that many smaller charities have really struggled through the pandemic to raise funds in their usual ways. We therefore decided to raise money for a small Cambridgeshire charity called Romsey Mill, who support families and children in the local area. Our Just Giving Page is still active.
We have been posting on our social media pages highlighting one or two venues a day. However we wanted to collate all the information in one place so below is a summary of the venues we visited and what is new!
Stops 1, 2 and 3
We started our walk at the Gonville Hotel, just off Parkers Piece. The hotel had very kindly offered us parking for the day. The Gonville has been closed for accommodation and meetings for much of the pandemic but has recently transformed its gardens into great outdoor dining space, complete with covered gazebo and heaters. From the 17th May, when the hotel reopened, they are creating an outdoor cinema on their back lawn, leaving the al fresco dining at the front.
Stop number two was the Centennial Hotel on Hills Road, close to the station. This hotel has been completely shut and undergone a total refurbishment. They partially reopened on the 17th May with a much more boutique type feel. The hotel has a small meeting room and restaurant, with its own small car park. We had a sneak peak and liked what we saw.
Next stop was Homerton College, currently closed to external meetings until the students go home in July. The college normally offers its own dedicated conference centre that is open all year round. But it also boasts over 500 ensuite bedrooms and a large flat floored lecture theatre that are available in the vacations.
Stops 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8
Stop number 4 was Clayton Hotel, formerly the Tamburlaine. The hotel has remained open for essential workers throughout. While they have been quieter, they refurbished the restaurant and meeting space. They have also added 4 new bedrooms! The lovely team at the hotel provided us with a delicious goodie bag of cakes and drinks; that helped keep is going!
Stops 5, 6, 7 and 8 were quick stops. The Ibis Cambridge, close to the station. Anglian Ruskin University that has redesigned their logo, so the frontage looks quite different with the new bold image. Vue Cinema at the Grafton Centre, like all cinemas they have been closed for most of the pandemic, but reopened on the 17th May, cinema screens can be hired privately for screenings or as tiered meeting rooms. Each screen has Sony 4K projection built in. Regent Hotel on Regent Street was stop number 8, the hotel is currently closed completely but will reopen in the next few weeks. With only 22 bedrooms the hotel does not offer any catering, but is very close to all the pubs, bars and restaurants along Regent Street.
Stops 9 and 10
Next stop Downing College that offers all year round meeting space in the centre of Cambridge; like all the Cambridge Colleges external meetings will not be allowed again until the students leave in July. As well as reopening all conference, private dining, and accommodation facilities their grounds and marquee will be available for outdoor events such as drinks receptions and BBQs this summer.
Stop number 10 was the University Arms Hotel. Just on Parkers Piece with its own car park, destination restaurant and large Ballroom, the University Arms has been closed since December. But you may have seen the many take away treats Tristan Welch and his team have been creating from Parkers Tavern, including amazing golden Easter eggs! The hotel reopened on the 17th May and throughout May is offering free walking tours for stays Monday – Thursday.
Venue number 11 was a great surprise. Waiting outside the Hilton Cambridge City with flasks of hot tea, coffee, cakes and sandwiches were the lovely team, including hotel dog! The Hilton has been open throughout for essential meetings and business travellers. They had already refurbished their lobby, bar and restaurant just prior to the pandemic. They had added an Executive Lounge and new gym too. But while the hotel has been partially closed they have completed the refurbishment of their meeting space. The Isaac Newton Suite has had a complete make over. The smaller rooms have all had 86” Plasma Screens installed, offering a perfect solution for hybrid events. The screens can be covered with paintings transforming the rooms into private dining spaces.
Next stop was to the soon to be Graduate Hotel. The former Doubletree Cambridge City is currently a building site. The hotel is undergoing a complete transformation, with a whole new leisure centre including a pool being added. We really cannot wait to have a preview in late June early July. Currently the hotel is looking like it will be opening its doors in late July.
Stop 13, 14 and 15
We then crossed the river to the Backs area and visited a few of the colleges. Selwyn College whose meeting space and accommodation is available in vacation times. They have recently built a new Auditorium, The Quarry Whitehouse. They hope to be welcoming external meetings back in late summer.
Venue number 14 was the lovely Newnham College, their new meeting space and ensuite bedrooms were opened just before the pandemic and they will be ready to look after external guests in July. Newnham have extensive gardens and sports grounds onsite, that all can be used for external events and team building. They are also celebrating their 150th birthday this year!
We then visited Robinson College who have a purpose-built external conference centre Crausaz Wordsworth Building. They plan to start running external events once the students have gone home. The main meeting room can comfortably seat 80 cabaret style and has a large breakout room, which can be split into 3 different spaces.
Stops 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20
Stop 16 was the Moller Institute, that is currently closed, but is standing ready to reopen as soon as the demand returns.
We then called at Churchill, Lucy Cavendish, Fitzwilliam and Westminster Colleges, they are all currently closed to external events while the students are all there. They plan to reopen to external meetings in July.
Stop 21, 22 and 23
Stop 21 was Murray Edwards College who have 2 self contained conference centres. They have the second largest collection of art by women in the world and have beautiful gardens, both can add something a little different to your conference or dinner. The Chamberlin Powel and Bon buildings were designed by the same architects who were responsible for The Barbican in London. They will reopen to external meetings once the students leave in July.
Arundel House hotel has been closed but reopened on the 17th May. The Varsity Hotel also reopened its bedrooms on the 17th May, but the roof top bar and gym have been open since the 12th April.
Next stop was Jesus College and a show round of their self-contained West Court conference centre. West Court also has 30 ensuite bedrooms, available all year round. The building has its own lecture theatre, Frankopan Hall, whose tiered seating can be cleverly removed to offer a large flat floored room. West Court boast a great selection of slightly smaller rooms, ideal for exhibitions, breakout rooms and catering. West Court has its own entrance from Jesus Lane so perfect for exclusive use residential meetings. Jesus College is famous for its large gardens and many sculptures, all found right in the centre of Cambridge. The space is currently being used to feed fellows and students, so once the students go home external meetings can resume.
Stops 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29
We then headed down towards King’s College, stopping at Sidney Sussex, Gonville & Caius, Trinity Hall and Clare College on the way. Like the other colleges they all hope to reopen to external meetings and dinners once the students leave in July.
Stops 30, 31 and 32
Stop 30 was the Pitt Building, part of Cambridge University Press. The venue has a number of meeting rooms all with natural daylight. They have been working hard to achieve the MIA and Visit England Covid-secure Accreditations over the last year and are ready to welcome delegates safely now.
Peterhouse College was next. They are the oldest Cambridge College founded in 1284. Their space is only available in vacation time, but each space really does represent the history of the college.
Then stop number 32 last but not least is Du Vin Cambridge. They are planning to reopen the Cellar Bar shortly! They had already completed a refurbishment of their meeting rooms just prior to the pandemic.
With aching feet we returned to the Gonville and home! We all said how great it was to Reconnect with so many of our colleagues in the hotels and venues…with over a year of only seeing them on a computer screen or talking on the phone! We were reminded of just how many great venues Cambridge has.
We are visiting some of the venues in the outskirts and will update you on social media.