We were delighted to be able to hold our Christmas Dinner last weekend at Lower Hardres Village Hall. It was a lovely occasion and a chance to get together that our Members and guests had greatly missed last year.
The festive event included a wonderful seasonal performance from local choir "Canterbury Voices" and a funny "mummers' play" from a group of Rotarians.
After pre-dinner drinks we had our usual "thought for the day" - given on this occasion by Rotarian Rosemary Doyle. President Stephen Thompson explained our raffle (which was run slightly differently from usual) and then addressed our Club with a short speech titled "A Christmas reflection". It was a nostalgic recollection of Christmas at the Thompson household when Stephen was a child that resonated with many of our audience members. "Family, I miss them all and so wish that I could turn the clock back to see them all again for one more chaotic Christmas like that," said Stephen - before adding "My message to you tonight is - this is our family - our Rotary Club. Enjoy the people that you are sitting with and who are around you."
Next followed a delicious three-course meal that had all the traditional favourites including turkey and Christmas pudding. The pudd "entered" to a cacophony of party poppers, while guests clapped as it was "lit". It was then taken on a parade before being tucked into!
Our attendees then sat back to enjoy some lovely singing to put us further into the Christmas spirit. Canterbury Voices is a chamber choir for female voices whose members include local vocal tutors, singers and students. (The Voices perform on a regular basis at concerts, gala dinners, conferences, weddings and charity fund raisers. The group have travelled as far as Azerbaijan and Kenya to perform.)
The Voices sang carols including a beautiful rendition of "O Holy Night" ("Cantique de Noël") and a splendid vocal version of "Carol of the Bells". Their director, Dr Kerry Boyle, is well known to our Club for leading choirs at Top Choir Kent, a very popular event that we used to host.
Led by PP Peter Hermitage, a handle of "daft" thespians then put on the mummers' play. Mummers' plays are folk plays performed by troupes of amateur actors known as mummers. Historically, mummers' plays consisted of informal groups of costumed community members that visited from house to house, often at Christmas time, to enact a story of combat. The loser would be revived by a doctor character. Whilst this may not sound too festive, our version, very loosely based on an Oxfordshire play of 1893, had a Christmas message for our entertainment and amusement; it starred an eclectic mix of characters: Mother Christmas (Sue Thompson); a dragon (President Elect Tony Loughran); Saint George (PP Martin Ward, who kept falling over!); and a Doctor (PP Viv Pritchard). Maxine Blades, our Club Secretary, acted as narrator. They were given a warm round of applause!
Guests had been asked to wear something festive, and at the end of the evening the award for "Best Christmas Adornment" went to PP Alan Mepstead for his festive tie. President Stephen Thompson called out the raffle numbers before thanking everyone that helped organise the event and all who attended (around 54 people braved the foggy night). Special thanks went to dining secretary Raj Dasan for managing the dining, including many late cancellations; PP Peter Hermitage for arranging the Canterbury Voices, organising the raffle and for conceiving the idea of the Mummers Play; Gill Dixon and Sue Thompson for planning and for decorating the hall so well with garlands and table decorations, and PP Phil Abbott for providing the lighting and PA system - and to everyone that donated raffle prizes and who helped clear up.
Due to the current Covid-19 situation, a lot of more thought and planning went into the Dinner this year than usual. It's an important occasion for our Members, guests and Rotary Widows, especially after a very difficult and lonely year for some, but given the vulnerable status of a lot of our Members it was important for us to follow guidance and exert caution. We are very grateful for the extra efforts taken by everyone.
In all we raised around £260 for the local and international causes that we support.
We are now looking forward to our final event of the year, Christmas Carols by Zoom tomorrow with our fellow Pentangular clubs across Europe.
Picture: Our Members & guests enjoy a heart Christmas dinner. Picture credit: Phil Abbott/Rotary Club of Canterbury.
A few more photos of the event can be seen on our Facebook page.