Twelve years on from the BBC mockumentary The Office, David Brent is back – but this time he’s on the big screen. Life on the Road follows his quest to embark on a self-financed UK tour with his band, Foregone Conclusion.
While his portrayal of Slough might not put it top of the tourist list, there’s plenty to do in Berkshire – especially if you like to rock out like Ricky Gervais’s alter ego.
We asked VisitEngland why David Brent should ditch the air guitar and stay put…
1. Follow in the footsteps of the Fab Four at Cliveden House, Taplow
Among the most beautiful stately homes in England, Cliveden House in Taplow was also where the Beatles chose to film Help! in 1965. The interiors doubled as the inside of Buckingham Palace and scenes included the Beatles playing cards in the French Dining Room in the south-western corner of the house, leaning out of the windows and in the Bluebell Woods in the grounds. The fab four famously held races on the Parterre between scenes.
On selected dates in August, Cliveden House is offering 50% off room-only suite rates. Prices start from £432.50 per night based on two guests sharing a junior suite. Go to clivedenhouse.co.uk
2. Explore Windsor’s rock ‘n’ roll heritage
Most famous for its royal resident, the town also has a rich musical heritage that Brent would surely aspire to. Home to the famous Ricky Tick club, where the likes of Hendrix, Eric Clapton and The Who started their careers in the 1960s, the town can also lay claim to hosting the first ever rock festival in Britain, held at the Royal Windsor Racecourse in July 1966.
While the club is long gone, visitors nowadays can take a tour on a French Brothers boat cruise with commentary on the town’s past; explore the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world; and go deer-spotting in Windsor Great Park. The Royal Windsor Racecourse is still the place to go for live music with forthcoming events including Human League playing at Ladies Day on 27 August (from £35 per person).
3. Rock out at Reading Festival, 26-28 August 2016
Reading Festival started life as the National Jazz Festival at Richmond Athletic Ground back in 1961, moving to various locations including Windsor Racecourse, Kempton Park and Plumpton, before finding its permanent home in Reading in 1971.
From its jazz roots, rhythm and blues artists gradually started being added to the bill including the Rolling Stones in 1963. The 70s saw it embrace punk rock and new wave with the likes of The Jam and The Stranglers topping the bill, whilst the 90s saw Nirvana play one of their most famous and last UK concerts.This year’s festival will welcome Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foals and Biffy Clyro. Day tickets are still available from £66.50.
4. Discover Reading’s musical heritage on a Readipop walking tour
Arts charity Readipop and Reading Museum have worked with a group of young people to explore Reading’s rich musical heritage and create an audio map of the town. The musical heritage trail has a physical map to follow, a display at the museum and displays in Reading’s shops and venues and guides people around a ‘sound walk’ that can be accessed on-line whilst at musical heritage trail locations. Visitors can collect a map at the Reading museum and start exploring. Go to readipop.co.uk
5. Indulge in a foodie feast in Bray
Whilst Brent’s meals will no doubt come courtesy of a late-night petrol station kiosk, Berkshire is one of the country’s top foodie destinations. Bray is home to Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, his Michelin-starred pub The Hinds Head; mouth-watering French cuisine at the Roux family-owned Waterside Inn (the first restaurant outside of France to maintain three Michelin stars for 25 years in a row), or just down the road in Marlow is Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers, the first pub to earn two Michelin stars.
6. Follow in the footsteps of some other great wordsmiths in Pangbourne
While Brent’s song writing genius cannot be argued with (who can forget the beauty of his ode to Slough…?), Berkshire’s riverside town of Pangbourne also has its own literary connections. Kenneth Grahame, author of Wind in the Willows, lived there and the Swan Public House was referred to in Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. Today, Pangbourne is still a charming place, full of character, with individual shops, pubs and cafes. Set on the National Thames Pathway, it’s the ideal stop for a pint or a picnic overlooking the waterside wildlife.
About as far removed from the industrial estate architecture of Brent’s office as you can get, Berkshire is home to some beautiful historic houses. Ashdown House, built in the early 1660s is an extraordinary doll’s house-style building nestled in a valley on the Berkshire Downs. Explore on set guided tours with just 25 people at a time or roam the woodland, which is open year round (adults £5.00, children £2.50).
Basildon Park is a Georgian mansion surrounded by parkland, which was lovingly rescued by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the mid 1950s. Those seeking to add a touch of celebrity to their visit can explore the interiors used as the Crawley family’s London residence, Grantham House in Downton Abbey. Or get back to nature on the waymarked trails through the 400 acres of historic parkland (adults £13.00, children £6.50).