It's only when you see The Warm & Toasty Club's special shows at the Arts Centre that you can appreciate the affection and support for this project. The historic venue was packed with people to share in the celebration of their Memory Afternoons. The Memory Afternoon project records and celebrates memories and experiences of the older generation living in the Colchester area as well as showcasing some brilliant entertainment. The project is supported by the National Lottery and by ITV.
Johnno Casson was effortlessly charming and engaging as usual with the audience that ranged from some of the participants of the Memory Afternoons through to young children and their families. In the vain of the eclectic cabaret shows of old, we started with a flawless demonstration of Bollywood style dancing from 'Jaymini's Bollywood Dance'. The audience was entranced by this solitary dancer on the stage and duly showed their appreciation.
It was an energetic and vibrant way to start the afternoon's proceedings. We followed with some music from a young and talented musician who had played previously at a Memory Afternoon (specifically the 'Sweets' Memory Afternoon); Bowie Bartlett. Bowie not only engaged the audience with some sing-along favourites but also demonstrated talent beyond her years by confidently performing a catchy song of her own creation.
Another returning talent was the harpist Mary Anne-Barcley. She was a popular highlight of a Memory Afternoon at the Greenstead Social Club. When she filled the rafters with the timeless sound of her harp playing it was a magical relaxing journey and a time when all those in the audience were sat in silent contemplation and appreciation.
In stark contrast, the next entertainment was the 'Harbour Lights Trio'. A talented folk arrangement from Suffolk who performed some very catchy songs (which I have found myself humming unawares). This is one of the many reasons why I love The Warm & Toasty Club events; the brilliant mix of talent and styles which seems odd on paper but is a joy to behold.
While the music and dance were popular and greatly received there is one event at the Warm & Toasty Club shows that has become renowned, anticipated and much contested, it is of course Biscuit of the Month.
This time around we had the Battle of the Fingers! Everyone had the possibility of sampling Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers and Viennese Fingers. Afterwards, Johnno quizzed the audience as to their preference before the all-important voting. While the Chocolate Fingers put up a good show, it was a decisive win by the Viennese Fingers. Frankly, I was surprised but that's part of the entertainment of the afternoon. As peoples appetite had been tempted by the biscuits it was time for the rounds of free toast.
With bellies full, we returned with entertainment from Anna Pancaldi who is fast making a name for herself as an accomplished singer/songwriter.
This collection of memories and entertainment is an odd combination that appears so effortless and casual that it can be easy to forget the hard work and coordination that makes it possible. While Johnno Casson is the perfect frontman, it's clear from the happy faces and rapturous applause that the hard work from all involved didn't go unappreciated.